Afghanistan

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:59 pm on 27th November 2014.

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Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon The Secretary of State for Defence 12:59 pm, 27th November 2014

I am grateful to the shadow Defence Secretary both for what he said and for the tone in which he said it. As we learnt this morning, there is no guarantee of an absolutely safe and stable future for Afghanistan, but I believe that we have given it the best possible chance of a stable future.

Let me try to pick up some of the points that the hon. Gentleman made. On this morning’s incident in Kabul, he will appreciate that it happened only a few hours ago. I can confirm that, sadly, two British embassy staff were killed. I believe a number of others were killed and injured, including passers-by. The incident occurred not at the embassy itself but within Kabul, some distance from the embassy. As soon as I have more details, I will of course ensure that he and the House have them.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the London memorial. He will have seen the announcement a few days ago that the memorial appeal, which was launched in The Sun, will be headed by a former chief of the defence staff, Lord Stirrup, who will be in charge of raising private sector contributions. The memorial will be in London but it is worth reminding the House that the memorial wall at Camp Bastion is being returned to this country and will be erected in the national memorial arboretum in Staffordshire.

The hon. Gentleman asked me to agree that the campaign was a success and worth while. It was certainly worth while. I believe that the decision to intervene with other countries in the light of the attack on the twin towers in 2001 was right. I do not think now there can be any question about that.

The hon. Gentleman asked me to confirm our future commitment. It is a good time to emphasise to the new Afghan Government that, although we have withdrawn our combat troops, we are not walking away from Afghanistan. We will underline that at the London conference, but our commitment to the Resolute Support mission will be enduring for 2015 and for 2016.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the make-up of the ANSF. That is a mixture of army, police and other elements, including an air force, which will take some time to develop. However, having met the local Afghan army corps commanders in Helmand province, I have no doubt about their appetite for defending their country. I saw that at the graduation ceremony that I was privileged to attend on behalf of the UK. I saw the determination of all those young officer cadets to get out into the field and defend their country against the kind of violence that we have seen and that continues sporadically in some areas.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the continuing UK presence. As I said, we will retain some 470 personnel in Afghanistan, largely in the Kabul area. They will continue to work at the national officer academy. They will provide advice on counter-terrorism and support to the security ministries. Our force will include an element of force protection, but it will be located mainly in and around Kabul. I cannot give him specific figures for the other Government Departments but, if he will allow me, I will write to him on that specific point.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked me about the London conference. The programme for the main event at the end of next week is still being developed with the Government of Afghanistan. However, ensuring that Afghan women’s and girls’ issues feature prominently is a top priority, and we are deliberately planning the conference in such a way that those are incorporated across all the main themes, including discussions on the overall reform agenda.

If I may, I will write to the hon. Gentleman on any further questions that I might not have picked up.