– in the House of Lords at 6:43 pm on 8th October 2001.
rose to move, That this House takes note of the coalition against international terrorism.
My Lords, last night British forces, acting with our American allies, took part in the first phase of the military response to the attacks on the United States of 11th September. Our forces fired submarine-launched Tomahawk missiles in a carefully targeted strike against Osama bin Laden, his terrorist network and the military installations of the Taliban regime which supports them. We also assisted the United States by agreeing to their use of facilities in Diego Garcia. That was some 26 days after the world witnessed acts of terrorism unparalleled; 26 days of careful planning and of putting together a coalition of our friends and allies in the United Nations, in NATO and in the European Union.
First, let me begin by paying tribute to the Armed Forces. I know all my colleagues, including my noble friend Lord Bach who went overseas this weekend, would wish me to say that time and again in recent months our servicemen and women have demonstrated that they are second to none in the world. We take enormous pride in them. They never let us down. And we trust not only in their professionalism and expertise, but also in their personal qualities--qualities of dedication and courage. I know the enormously high esteem in which they are held not only in this country and not only among our close allies, but just as impressively throughout the world. I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with them now.
Last night's action was not taken in haste. Some of your Lordships remarked only last Thursday, when we met to debate the aftermath of 11th September outrages, how careful and how measured the responses had been of the political and military leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. Many noble Lords were very appreciative of that approach.
Military action should not, indeed must never, be taken lightly. Much thought and work has been dedicated to the timing, scale and targeting of this action. The strikes last night were aimed at disrupting, damaging and destroying Al'Qaeda's terrorist network camps and elements of the military infrastructure of their Taliban supporters. That action clearly supported our two objectives--to bring those responsible for the attacks of 11th September to account and to remove the threat of international terrorism from our world.
Last night 30 targets were hit. Those included four terrorist training camps and a range of Taliban military facilities, including airfields and air defence sites capable of threatening our operations in the future. The fact is that action against such varied targets requires a wide range of forces. Obviously, most came from the United States. But, as the House will want to know, the United Kingdom has three submarines--HMS "Superb", HMS "Trafalgar" and HMS "Triumph"--in the region. Royal Navy Tomahawk land attack missiles were fired at one of the targets, a Taliban terrorist site.
I recognise of course that your Lordships will be interested to know of the effectiveness of last night's strike. Detailed battle damage assessment is still under way. I am sure your Lordships would not expect me to announce specific details while the first phase of the operation continues. However, we can say that initial indications are that the coalition operations were successful in achieving their objectives of destroying and degrading elements of the Al'Qaeda and Taliban terrorist and military facilities. There is more to be done. Last night was the first strike. There will be more. Indeed, there will be more tonight, as the Prime Minister made clear in the Statement which the Leader of the House repeated.
However, I am confident that media reports of bombs and missiles falling near civilian areas are misleading. Our targeting selection processes are meticulous and we have taken considerable care to minimise any risk to the people of Afghanistan. Detonations at nearby targets and anti-aircraft fire can easily give the impression, particularly at night, that civilian areas are under attack. I know of the concern in your Lordships' House on this issue; indeed, it was forcefully expressed last Thursday. I can assure your Lordships that civilian homes and property have not been targeted and the utmost care has been and will be taken in that respect.
Of the 30 sites which were struck, all--I repeat, all--were terrorist camps or military installations. I remind your Lordships that 23 targets were in remote areas of the country. I also ask your Lordships to remember that the Afghan media are no more than a mouthpiece for the Taliban regime. Remember, no independent journalists are allowed inside Afghanistan.
Perhaps I can say something about future operations, bearing in mind the wide injunction from the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. In addition to the Tomahawk missile-equipped submarines, we have made available Royal Air Force reconnaissance and other support aircraft. Those began to deploy to the region today and will be available to support further operations over the coming days.
No one who saw the repellent video statement from bin Laden, which was broadcast on our televisions yesterday, can fail to doubt the fanaticism and evil that is behind the form of terrorism that we saw in the United States. It is enough that my right honourable friend's Statement made clear what was said; I shall not repeat it. I shall not give currency to that wickedness any more than is necessary. But it added weight to the justification we have in dealing with this pernicious terrorism as a matter of self-defence. It is self-defence that we are entitled to under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and as affirmed by United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1368 and 1373 which were passed after the atrocities of 11th September.
That justification was further spelt out in the evidence released by the Prime Minister last Thursday. Many of your Lordships will have read that evidence; I urge those who have not done so to do so now, because it shows that bin Laden and his network were able to carry out these attacks because the Taliban knowingly gave them support and knowingly sheltered them. The two feed off each other, supporting each other's terror, supporting each other's killing and profiting from the drug trade. The evidence has been accepted not only by our traditional allies, but by many others throughout the world who are joining the consensus of condemnation against this form of terrorism.
The Taliban could have avoided the military action of last night and tonight. The United States offered a peaceful solution which we fully supported; namely, the chance to surrender bin Laden and his associates for trial and to offer proof that they, the Taliban, would no longer support terrorism. They had two weeks in which to comply, but they refused. They lied and they prevaricated. Indeed, they appear to be lying again today when they tell us that they are not in contact with bin Laden, but that they know he survived the air strikes.
Our Prime Minister could not have been clearer when he warned the Taliban last week that it was running out of time. It did not believe him and last night, together with the United States, we acted in legitimate self-defence. It is a defence against those who have threatened us over and over again and who, on 11th September, brought those threats to hideous reality.
During this difficult time, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and, indeed, all Members of Her Majesty's Government, have been clear about two absolute points: first, we are not fighting the people of Afghanistan, who have suffered more than most nations in recent years while under Taliban rule; secondly, and just as important, emphatically we are not fighting those of the Islamic faith, a faith which is regarded not only with respect, but with admiration by all those who understand its real basis--a basis of peace, wisdom and compassion. Those values are about as far removed from those which motivate this terrorism as anyone could imagine.
I am sure that many noble Lords would agree with the Prime Minister when he said that it angers him, as it does the vast majority of Muslims, to hear bin Laden and his associates described as Islamic terrorists. They are quite simply terrorists and what they have done is totally contrary to the teachings of the Koran.
We have no quarrel with the people of Afghanistan. They know better than anyone the suffering that is caused by tyranny and by terrorism. Our commitment to them is simple. We want to help to build a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. The Prime Minister has emphasised that the humanitarian effort to provide succour to the people of Afghanistan is as important as the military action which we are undertaking. Furthermore, as with the military action, the United Kingdom is in the forefront of the work to stave off famine in Afghanistan this winter among the 4.5 million refugees who have already fled from the Taliban regime.
We were the first country to pledge aid money for the refugees. We have committed £36 million on top of the £32 million that we have given since 1997. We are ready to give more. The first priority remains the delivery of emergency relief to the millions of people now on the edge of existence, as well as the building up of enough stockpiles over the next few weeks to deal with the harsh circumstances of the coming winter. My noble friend Lady Amos will say more about this when she comes to respond to our debate this evening.
But we must also be prepared for the long haul. We shall not walk away, as the outside world has done so many times before. If the Taliban regime changes, we will work with the Afghan people to ensure that its successor is one that is broad based, that unites all ethnic groups and offers some way out of the miserable poverty that is, alas, their present existence. Meeting the cost, the duration, the scale and the complexity of the recovery programme in Afghanistan will require sustained political engagement on the part of the international community over the coming 10 to 20 years. Such engagement will also be required from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the Asian Development Bank and UN agencies, as well as major donor countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan and Arab donors.
As we have heard already, military action is under way again this evening. We should remember that the coalition within the wider consensus that supports this action is very broad: Canada, Australia, Germany and France have also pledged their forces, while many of our other European partners are united in their support of the action that we have taken. We are grateful for the wide-ranging international support that we have received from around the world. Noble Lords may know that last week NATO announced the action that it is taking to support the United States. Today it announced that it was deploying AWACs aircraft to the United States. NATO is also considering deploying the Standing Naval Force Mediterranean, which is a multinational force currently under British command.
But the consensus is wider than the coalition of which I have spoken. In Pakistan, General Musharraf has said that that country supports the coalition and the diplomatic efforts that are being made because of the failure to secure any satisfactory response from the Taliban so far. In Russia, a foreign ministry statement has said that Afghanistan has become an international centre for terrorism and extremism. China has declared its opposition to terrorism in any form and hopes that the relevant military strikes on terrorism will be targeted at specific objectives. Japan "strongly supports" the action taken by the United States and Britain.
In the Statement my noble and learned friend repeated the point about Yvonne Ridley, who is now under the protection of Pakistani officials. I am sure that the House will be pleased to know that British consular officials are now on their way to collect her and to bring her back to Islamabad this evening.
It is clear that the military action that we are to debate this evening forms only one part of our wider response. We are already moving ahead on the diplomatic and humanitarian measures that were discussed in our debate last week. But this evening we are faced with a sombre and compelling prospect. It will be not only a broad-based campaign, but a long and hard one. The price we will all have to pay may be very high, but we know that the price of inaction would be higher still.
Across our globe, people of good will are crying out for a peaceful world, one based on justice and mutual security, and for the defeat of terrorism. We have it in our power to make a real difference and it is now our duty to do our utmost to make that difference. I beg to move.
My Lords, it goes without saying that we on this side of the House totally endorse the measures which the noble Baroness has outlined so clearly, and the actions now being taken by ourselves, our American allies and by the grand coalition with the wide support of almost the entire world. We salute the brave personnel who are involved tonight and will be so for several nights ahead. We are also pleased to hear the latest news concerning Yvonne Ridley. She is now in safe hands. However, we tremble for the remaining aid workers and Christians being held. We have received no news of their fate. We shall watch out for any further information on that front.
Furthermore, we accept that what is being done is necessary, although not of our choosing, as President Bush pointed out in an eloquent statement. It is something which has to be done and will be done. We must not fail. We have complete trust in the words of the services chiefs and of the Ministers, including the noble Baroness, as regards the careful and meticulous manner of the targeting so that civilian damage will be kept to an absolute minimum. We take that on full trust because we believe that what is being done is being practised and carried through in the most careful way. In that respect, we are unlike BBC commentators: speaking during a "World at One" programme, one apparently needed the judgment of some independent authority to decide who to trust as between the coalition forces and the Taliban. We do not need that judgment. We know who can be trusted and who is lying. The media should apply the same principles. I believe that it was Mr Churchill who said that one cannot be even-handed between the fire and the fire brigade. Perhaps the same principle might apply to our BBC commentators in making their judgments.
Because we have debated these matters at vast length--for 12 hours last Thursday--I want to avoid, as do others, the danger of being repetitive. I shall make two or three simple points. First, we understand and accept that this is the beginning of a wider campaign. It is intelligence-based, involving financial controls and diplomatic activity, and parts will be invisible, in addition to the visible matters which can be covered by the media. Above all, there will be a major humanitarian element. My noble friend Lady Rawlings will return to a number of questions and points on that vital aspect.
I say at the beginning that we should remember that however successful one is in any humanitarian operation in getting food to starving people, that does not cure the problem of poverty. It does not mean that economic development will take place. That will take a much longer term and it is a much more difficult task. It is that longer-term task which, in the end, has to cure this benighted part of the world, Afghanistan, of its constant deprivations and the way in which it is caught by endless drought and other such problems.
The noble Baroness made two points very well, but I wish to emphasise them even more strongly. As she rightly said, this is not a war on Afghanistan. Some newspapers, including one of the "heavies", seemed to suggest in headlines that it was. That is wrong. It is a campaign. The question of war is always difficult. This is certainly a campaign against the Taliban infrastructure which reinforces terror. It is a campaign to replace the present quite evil administration and government in Kabul with something which is more moderate. In his many eloquent statements the Prime Minister referred to a broad coalition. That will be very difficult to achieve, but that is what is needed.
Above all, it is a campaign to clear and pave the road for the most important immediate task, which is to remove the poisonous bacillus of Osama bin Laden and to see that that man at least plays no further part in ordering atrocities and slaughter such as we saw on 11th September, and which he has been practising for many years previously. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal rightly said, if there is any doubt about the evil of that man, one need only tune into the latest television reports. Here we have a man of undoubted malignity, driven by hate, preaching death and destruction. It is a pity, but it has to be recognised, that even now throughout the world of our Muslim allies and some others, there appear to be doubts about the evil, blame or part played by that man in the atrocities and about the fact that somehow we must work harder and harder. The Government have done well in producing the substantial evidence to bring home the undoubted connection between this man and the killings, not just on 11th September, but also in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and many other places. I refer also to the actions of the man sitting beside him on television, to whom the Lord Privy Seal also referred.
The second obvious point which has to be hammered home is that this is not a war on Islam. One still hears it being said around the world that it is a religious war. We have to remind people that three times in the past 10 years British, American and coalition troops have gone to war, risking their lives to protect Muslim people and to ensure their freedom in places such as Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo. So let there be no truck with the argument that it is a war of civilisations and that we deploy our military only in the interests of our own religious sects or western beliefs. That is belied by the record of the past decade and should not need repeating.
Our British Muslim friends, our band of brothers, have been strong in condemning 11th September. I believe that that was appreciated. I am a little puzzled to hear that the Muslim Council of Britain now says that the riposte or punishment which is necessary to prevent this happening again, in an even worse form, is a step too far. I do not understand why they say that. I hope that moves will take place to talk this through with the people who believe that identifying and finding those who are to blame for the horrors of 11th September, and punishing them, is a step too far.
The problem is that while everything within oneself says it is not a matter of Islam, terrorism around the world, foul deeds and words continue to flow in the name of Islam. It is the taking the name of Islam in vain, which one can hear on television every night, which is so unsettling. I believe that all the friends of Islam will want to reject the kind of thing which is being claimed for the Islamic cause, particularly out of the mouth of Osama bin Laden. It is not enough to reject it once: that rejection must be made again and again, day after day, in order to show the strength of the coalition united against terrorism, and the fact that such terrorism has nothing to do with religion.
Osama bin Laden may be a very evil spider, but there are many webs. It is not a single pyramid organisation, as we said last Thursday in your Lordships' House. In this case we are fighting a gigantic, mysterious and dangerous network. Indeed, some theorists have suggested that because we are doing that this may be the world's first "net-war", an operation in which all the old tenets and assumptions about moving troops here and there, advancing to this target or that, may be invalidated. The next front could spring up anywhere.
We must obviously go about our business calmly, but we must brace ourselves. That is the view which I offer from this side of the House tonight. To oppose what is being done would encourage more terror, more slaughter, starvation and misery. So tonight we give unqualified support to the military operations and to what is being done as part of a bigger campaign. We wish the leaders of the enterprise in the name of humanity all good fortune.
My Lords, we on these Benches also give the Government our full support for what they have necessarily done within the past 24 hours, in accordance with international law and in careful co-operation with our allies. Like all military action, it is a tragedy, but it is a necessary one in these circumstances. This is a limited strike, where there are few useful targets to hit and where the Government have rightly emphasised the need to avoid, as far as is possible, civilian targets.
We all recognise that military action alone cannot defeat terrorism, but that some military action may play a necessary part in combating international terrorism--especially when those terrorist networks receive support and sponsorship from state-based regimes. We also recognise how hard-worked are the British Armed Forces. One question to which we must return once the immediate crisis is over is whether our Armed Forces as presently constituted and financed can cope with the number of tasks imposed on them.
We also recognise that the Taliban regime is especially abhorrent and exists in mutual dependence with the Al'Qaeda network. This evening, we have already heard much criticism of the BBC from the Conservative Benches. The BBC "Panorama" programme was an example of the BBC at its balanced best.
We must recognise that in all such actions we are concerned not purely with targets but with audiences. The international coalition must be concerned with several audiences: the people of Afghanistan, suffering under an imposed Taliban regime; those in the rest of the Muslim world--the man on the Muslim street, so to speak--the West and the rest of the world. In tackling those different audiences, the independence of the BBC--its willingness occasionally to say things that do not take the British Government for granted--is a tremendous asset. That is why people in other countries trust the BBC.
In the past few days, I am happy to have heard that the BBC World Service has increased its broadcasts to Afghanistan and in various languages. I am also happy to hear from the British Council that it is planning a range of new activities to bring Christians, Muslims and those from different countries together. That is precisely what the government of an open society should be doing in such circumstances. It is important that alongside the military action that we are taking, the British Government should--as our Prime Minister and other Ministers have--make as clear as possible that we are acting multilaterally, in the widest possible circumstances of international co-operation and consultation, including the Russians and the Chinese.
We think it important to contain the conflict. In Afghanistan there are a number of clear targets. We have not yet identified any evident targets outside Afghanistan. It is clear that Osama bin Laden and his allies in the terrorist network would love to provoke a wider conflict. We must do our best not to give them what they want.
In recent days, in the press and in the United States, there have been suggestions that we should take the opportunity to have a go at Iraq. This is not an opportunity to attack other perceived rogue states without clear evidence. We should resist the suggestions from the American right--and, if necessary, from the British right--that the conflict allows us the opportunity to have a go at other perceived enemies. We should give all due credit to President Bush that, so far, he has resisted such pressures, and trust that he will continue to do so.
International law and institutions are fundamental in this conflict, because we stand for the rule of law within and among states. Those are the principles that we are defending, so we must ensure that, as far as humanly possible, we act in accordance with them.
I welcome in the Statement and the Minister's opening speech the emphasis on ensuring that relations among different communities of faith and culture within our country, as well as around the world, are nurtured and maintained--an issue on which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bradford spoke so eloquently last Thursday. While recognising the necessity of the immediate action, we must be concerned with the long haul, with what happens after the conflict and with winning the peace. After all, one of the fundamental principles about which Klausewitz wrote in On War is that we should not go to war without being sure that we have some sense of what we want to happen afterwards.
My noble friend Lord Redesdale will say more about the humanitarian aspects later. The humanitarian dimension is clearly extremely important. Gaining a broad-based based Government in Afghanistan, with the approval of the United Nations, at peace with its neighbours--not simply allowing one faction to succeed another--is clearly also important. My noble friend Lord Ashdown will say a little about that and about the wider regional implications of relations between Afghanistan and its neighbours.
We must think now about our wider and longer-term aims. Ideally, western policy towards the Middle East and central Asia during the past 10 years would have involved more attention to establishing strong regimes in the area, to the developing drought during the past five years, to the large number of Afghan refugees who have been living in camps in Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere. We must now make up time and ensure that we assist weak states to strengthen the rule of law, civil society and, in turn, their economies. We must tackle the linked political and economic causes of poverty in such weak and frail states. We must tackle the problems of the Middle East. It is a region with insecure and authoritarian regimes, with the Arab-Israeli conflict, which to some extent undermines regimes throughout the region and with an increasing western dependence on Middle Eastern and other oil.
We clearly need to strengthen global institutions--there is a long agenda for reforming the United Nations. I know that Mr Brahimi has now been appointed as special envoy to deal with Afghanistan. It is only nine months or so since we were discussing the critical Brahimi report on the inadequacies of United Nations peace-keeping operations. I hope that the Government will return to that, in close co-operation with their European partners and the United States, who are now thankfully changing their attitude to strengthening international institutions.
However, those issues are for the long term. Our immediate priority is to report the approach taken--to stress that it has been multilateral, in accordance with international law and institutions and that the use of force has been both limited and proportionate.
My Lords, it is all too easy to pontificate in times such as these. I shall try to restrict myself to a few, simple, practical comments based on some modest experience during the Gulf War.
First, President Bush and the Prime Minister have done a splendid job of assembling a coalition. The hard part is maintaining that coalition during an extended period when the going gets rough. The best way of so doing is by maintaining the fullest possible flow of information to our partners, with frequent ministerial visits--they do not all have to be at the highest level--so that all members of the global coalition against terrorism know our thinking at all times. That was our practice in the difficult run-up to the Gulf War and it proved valuable.
Secondly, the global coalition operates at several levels. Only a few are or will be involved in military action. A wider number support its aims and objectives, but we must not stretch too far to broaden the coalition just for the sake of making it appear universal. The bedrock condition for membership has to be a willingness to cease all support for terrorist acts of any sort, as required by the recent UN Security Council resolution. You cannot join the coalition and be ambivalent on that point.
The Sudan has set an example by handing over details of bin Laden's organisation and its previous activities in the Sudan. But some other countries have so far remained silent or made ambiguous statements. It is not enough to stick up their hands and say, "Please, Sir, it wasn't me, Sir". They have to take clearly visible action to terminate support for terrorism, in whatever cause it is allegedly pursued.
That leads to my third point--the definition of terrorism. Again, it is not good enough to say that some organisations are not terrorists but freedom fighters. What counts is the act. It is easy enough to define a terrorist act. It is an act of murderous violence committed with intent against civilians. If it looks like a terrorist act, it is a terrorist act, whether you call the person who carried it out a terrorist or a freedom fighter.
Fourthly, playing games with the defence budget is a favourite peacetime sport, especially at the Treasury. But when soldiers, sailors and airmen are putting their lives on the line, that has to stop. They are entitled not only to the Government's full support--and the Prime Minister's words on television last night praising our Armed Forces as second to none and the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, in opening the debate are welcome--but the forces must have whatever equipment they need to do the job.
There have been horror stories in the past few years of rifles which do not work and the like. I recall the difficulty we had assembling a sufficient number of serviceable tanks for the Gulf War, which makes one wonder what would have happened had they ever been required to stop a Soviet advance over the North German Plain. A war is not a time for candle-ends and bean counting. The forces must have what they need and weapons and ordnance expended or lost must be fully replaced--at the least.
Fifthly, there are bound to be nasty surprises, especially in a campaign against terrorism as long and as arduous as the one which faces us. I recall getting home late one night during the Gulf War only to be telephoned by General Scowcroft from the White House with the information that Iraq had just launched Scud missiles towards Israel and the Americans had no idea what might be in the warheads on the end of them. I covered the distance back to No. 10 in record time.
We were fortunate that Iraq did not risk the folly of using chemical or biological weapons, or worse. And it did not do so because it was made unmistakably clear what would happen to it if it did. Similar dangers could conceivably arise this time. If they do, we and the Americans would need to make clear the terrible fate which would need to be inflicted on any regime which furnished chemical or biological weapons to terrorists and the means to deliver them. That would be the equivalent of a direct attack on us by the country concerned.
Sixthly and finally, we must not stop too soon. If we are fortunate enough to secure some early victories against terrorists and the Taliban in Afghanistan, there will be a tendency to relax and lose momentum. Arguably we stopped too soon in the Gulf War, though we had little alternative given the terms of the UN resolution on which military action was based. This time, in different circumstances, we must see the task through, even if the later stages are more difficult than the early ones and could require further military action. I very much welcome the Prime Minister's words in his Statement that we intend to see the task through to the end. I hope that that commitment will not come back to haunt him if we encounter fainter hearts.
There will certainly be moments of danger and great risks this time. But it must never deter us from doing what is right. The Government have acted with courage and with determination up to this point. They will need those qualities in abundance in future and I for one have every confidence that they will display them.
My Lords, when I entered the building today someone said to me, "I see you have come out of your hibernation. Are you going to make a speech?". I prefer to think of it as a retreat rather than a hibernation. There has been a period of reflection and thought as to where we are and where we look as though we are likely to be going. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Powell, that this is not a time for high-flown rhetoric. It is a time for looking coolly, dispassionately and as objectively as we can at where we are and where it looks as though we are going.
I want to make three points and I shall be as brief as possible. I shall try to emulate the noble Lord, Lord Powell. The main purpose of the debate is that we should have an opportunity to express support for the actions taken by the United States Government and by our own Government. We are all agreed that such actions need to be proportionate to the end that we are trying to achieve; they need to be targeted as far as possible away from civilians; and they need to be directed precisely and concentrated on military and political assets. I congratulate the Armed Forces of both our countries on the skill with which so far the force has been used. And again I follow the noble Lord, Lord Powell, in congratulating my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. His handling of the situation has been masterful, sophisticated and so far extraordinarily successful. The size and scope of the coalition that has been put together is remarkable. Furthermore, it has gone extraordinarily well in terms of neutralising possible adversaries.
Of course the risks are high--they are bound to be--but that is not the question. The question is: given that the risks are going to be high are they risks which are worth taking? My answer to that is clear and simple: it is "Yes". I am pleased to note that the Germans, French, Australians and Canadians have offered military support. My only comment about that is that it all looks a bit western--and perhaps that is not the look which we would wholly wish to give this particular exercise.
Secondly, what are our war aims? It is certainly not a war against Islam and it is necessary continually to reiterate that. The Prime Minister and my noble friend did so today and we should do likewise. It is not a war against the religion or the Muslims; it is, if anything, a battle against the violent effects of a perversion of that belief.
However, the war aims have inevitably broadened as the crisis has deepened. From a narrow objective--namely, the elimination of bin Laden and his followers of international terrorists--our aims now include the ending of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The two inexorably go together. It is a nasty government. It is brutal, intolerant and blinkered. Anyone who saw John Simpson's report on last night's "Panorama" programme can have little doubt about the nature of that regime. It has turned the clock back centuries; its country is devastated; the population is starving; and half the population is denied any basic education. I do not believe that the rest of the world can any longer merely look on as impotent observers of the destruction of a people. Something has to be done and I am delighted that we are beginning to do it.
Therefore, we are right to include the replacement of the Taliban as one of our principal war aims. However, it seems likely that the regime will not last much longer and no doubt its end will be violent. It also seems likely that bin Laden's days are numbered, but, again, I suspect that it will take a great deal of commitment, determination and character to achieve that end. But what then?
It is relatively easy to specify the kind of government which we in the West would want to see in power in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister has spelt it out on a number of occasions and my noble friend did so here today. We should like to see a government which has much more of a consensus administration involving the different tribal groupings; a greater respect for human rights; a less fundamentalist and oppressive approach to religion; and a greater tolerance for other beliefs.
But how can we get from point A to point B? At some stage someone will have to run the country. It will need administering and at a basic level people will have to be fed. The damage left by two decades of war will have to be repaired. The only institution capable of even beginning to do that is the UN. No other body can gain the confidence of both the Arab nations and the West. Clearly, we cannot just hand over Afghanistan to the Northern Alliance. That would be a recipe for continuing civil unrest. The victorious allies cannot do it either. One needs an international approach. A UN mandate to run the country while the details of a successor government are hammered out is, I suspect, how it will all end. To achieve that, we should talk to the secretary-general now. I hope consultations are taking place and I should be grateful for some indication that they are.
What would be quite unacceptable is a situation in which, when the Taliban has gone and the great problems of administering this war-torn country are looked at, the problem is thrown at the United Nations. When perhaps, predictably, the UN does not succeed in that task in which the victorious nations themselves failed, the cry will then be, "It's all the fault of the United Nations". That has happened on a number of occasions in the past. I hope it will not happen in the future. It would need sufficient resources from the world's major countries for the United Nations to do it.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was right to talk in that inspiring speech to the Labour Party Conference of the potential for world community action. If ever there were a problem which demanded it, it is the present one in Afghanistan. We need concerted action to win the war and community action to resolve the longer term problems of how the country should be governed. We have succeeded in getting the Security Council to give legal cover to the present action in two resolutions. That is an immense diplomatic achievement and I congratulate those responsible. We shall have to go back to the Security Council when the outlines of a settlement begin to emerge. My concern is whether or not we are laying the ground for this now. In my view, we should be.
My Lords, I begin by stating my clear support for the skill, determination and courage of the British military personnel taking part in the current action. I hope that their skill and courage will be part of an international effort and that the affirmation of Article 5 of the NATO treaty will be demonstrated in action.
In opening the debate, the noble Baroness referred to countries which have already given valuable support of different kinds since 11th September. I hope that that will continue. If this action is seen outside Europe to be not much more than a British-American action, it will not augur well for peace in the Middle East. I know that the Government have that very much in mind.
It is right that we should not be diffident about the role the United Kingdom plays in the world. As someone whose forebears came here not much more than half a century ago and found sanctuary in this country because of qualities which we are attempting to sustain in the current action, I believe that our media are sometimes too reluctant to recognise the role that we are currently playing in the world. This action is against organisations whose political aims father cruelly calculated acts of violence creating death and terror to innocent civilians. They do so by causing mayhem in countries with an acceptable level of self-determination from a country which has no self-determination whatsoever.
The principle of self-determination, not just in Afghanistan, should be clearly in our sights and those of all governments, as we hold firm in our involvement in the present conflict. As noble Lords have said, a formula has to be found for the future of Afghanistan. It will not be satisfactory to substitute the Northern Alliance or a fallen monarchy or even a combination of partly discredited organisations in place of the Taliban. Self-determination must be the goal, although it will take time to achieve. I hope that the international community will enable Afghanistan, on a basis of neutrality--at least in the early days--to rebuild a country and a society capable of that. We must demonstrate, as an international community in a shrinking world polity, our commitment to a safe, dignified and lasting settlement for others relevant to this crisis. The legacy of those 6,000 and more who died in New York on 11th September must be a safer world, or we shall have dishonoured their memory.
The terrorism we fight has no justification. However, it is given a fallacious sense of reason by the continuing impasse in the Middle East, specifically between Israel and the Palestinians. We know that it is used as a recruiting call to impressionable people, particularly young men. Too many still believe that somehow a jihad can bring the end of the state of Israel. Too many in Israel believe with equal fervour that they have still a running holy writ over land outside internationally recognised parameters. Those convictions will continue to undermine the future of world peace. I hope that the strong alliance of a large number of governments, who in the past have not agreed so readily, will use its diplomatic influence to bring together and to keep together those protagonists in the Middle East. We should make them talk, make them use diplomacy, and we should employ economics and all the tools of governments combining together after the destruction of the Taliban, to bring about a lasting peace, avoiding the regrowth of what we have recently faced.
Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and all the other great world religions, share far more than divide them. All bless the peacemaker. All praise intelligent judgment. All condemn those who bear false witness, most particularly against their own religion. Those of us less driven by religious faith than many of our colleagues wish that religious leaders would remember that. We who are more secular in our approach hope that religious leaders world-wide will bring together their global influences in this conflict, so that the future is not as dismal as it seems today.
We are looking at a very ugly page in an ugly story in an ugly part of human history. If we look at this as a stand-alone issue, if I may borrow from the noble Baroness a phrase, "We shall be walking away from the real issues". I hope that our Government, who have acted commendably throughout this conflict, will not walk away from addressing the larger problems as well as the narrow battles faced today.
My Lords, I was in Australia on 11th September. The time in that part of the world was rather different from the time in the United Kingdom. Most people watching late-night television imagined that they were seeing a horror movie and so they turned to other channels to find something different. But whatever channel they turned to, the same programme was on and then the reality of the horror struck them.
Since 11th September, people in Australia have continued to travel. That is unusual and has been remarked on. However, they travel with anxiety. Air travel throughout the world at the moment is a great worry. Unlike people in Europe who have faced battles on their own soil repeatedly over the centuries, neither the Americans nor the Australians have ever done battle with a foreign power on their own soil. That makes quite a difference to people's reactions. Australians were very shocked that battle could have come to New York in the form of terrorism.
One of my reasons for being in Australia was to be present at the unveiling of the memorial to Magna Carta in Canberra. It was a gift, partly of the British Government, to Australia to celebrate the centenary of federation in Australia. On that occasion, just two weeks after the terror attack in New York, the Prime Minister made a brilliant speech in which he pointed out that never was there a more appropriate moment to be looking back to Magna Carta and to the marvellous effect it has had on the world through the centuries. So many constitutions in the world have been based on the principles of Magna Carta. It has always been a great force against absolutism of any kind.
As a woman, a mother and a grandmother, I am naturally anxious about what will happen following the events of 11th September. The noble Lord, Lord Powell, said that there will be some nasty surprises and I have no doubt that that is true. We are all anxious and there is fear for the future. However, I was impressed today by the Prime Minister's statement that we will care for the people of Afghanistan after the conflict is over. I should emphasise at this point that the NGOs will also have a part to play in the recovery. It is the women and children in all countries where conflict takes place who are adversely affected as civilians. We now have women in the forces, but even when no women were fighting, women always suffered.
The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said that civilians will not be targeted. I applaud that and welcome the noble Baroness's statement. However, I must emphasise how untrue it was of the terror attack in New York. Civilians were very specifically targeted. Therefore, if the time comes when there are civilian casualties--that will always happen no matter how carefully objectives are targeted--we should hold firmly to our knowledge that we do not intend to target civilians. The terrorists certainly did not hesitate to do so.
Australia is part of the coalition. That is why I decided to speak in the debate. I wanted to say how instantly Australia came out in support of the coalition. I understand that Australia has sent forces to the area. However, we do think that there is a long, hard time ahead. The British have a reputation for not being easily roused, but they also have a reputation for dogged determination to do the right thing. They have iron nerves when it comes to the testing point. Those are qualities that will be tried in the long, hard time ahead, and they will not be found wanting.
On the religious aspect, whatever one's own religious beliefs, one must have a tolerance of the religious beliefs of others. It is essential that this does not become a religious battle. I applaud what has been said on that point. It is not a battle with Muslims. It is a battle against terrorism in which we must succeed.
My Lords, I begin with a specific point. I am sure that we are all grateful when any British citizen escapes from danger, but I want to point out that the lady who has just emerged from Afghanistan went there surreptitiously, illegally and for professional purposes. We have heard a great deal about that lady. I wish that we had heard rather more about the aid workers who went to Afghanistan legally and for charitable reasons. I very much hope that my noble friend Lady Amos is briefed to give us some advice as to what their position is, whether there is any risk of their being put in the front line and held as hostages against air attacks, and what the Government have been able to do so far to obtain their release.
I very much endorse one of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Powell of Bayswater, about the danger of having too widespread a coalition. That is certainly my view. I quite understand the enthusiasm of the British and American governments for getting as wide a basis of support internationally for their activities as is possible. The principle that my enemy's enemy is my friend can lead one into some very uncomfortable relationships over time. I can see considerable difficulties in the years ahead with the adoption of that principle. I am reminded of the wise remarks in our previous debate of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, on the question of the definition of terrorism. I see many dangers ahead.
My main purpose in speaking today is to say a little more about the intelligence services and spending on them. A report in the Sunday Times said that there had been great increases in expenditure on both MI5 and MI6, to use the shorthand. I shall not ask my noble friend to confirm the amounts involved, but I should be grateful if she could assure the House that increased resources are being made available to all the agencies. Such increased resources are long overdue.
In the context of security and intelligence generally, I find myself for the second time running endorsing the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, about the security of information. We did not do all that well in Kosovo, a subject on which I do not know a great deal although rather like the noble Lord, Lord Powell of Bayswater, I do know a little. One of the things that happened when we had a wide coalition was that briefings were given every day to the Committee of Permanent Representatives of NATO. Very often the committee had a say in the choice of targets. It is not for me to say what the consequences of those briefing were, but I know very well that many senior military officers in this country and on the other side of the Atlantic thought that they were a disaster and that the committee acted, at the very best, like a sieve and, at the worst, like something rather more sinister. Even though Article 5 has been invoked and NATO is fully associated with what is going on, I very much hope that we shall not have any repetition of those daily briefings to the Committee of Permanent Representatives in respect of these proceedings.
Noble Lords know that I was in North America at the time of the events of 11th September. I was startled to see some headlines in the newspapers saying that British special forces were already in Afghanistan. That information became available as a result of a briefing given apparently by the Pentagon, which said that American and British forces were in Afghanistan on the ground. I telephoned one of my friends in Washington to ask what the hell was going on. I very much hope that the full weight and influence of the British Government will be brought to bear to ensure that we do not have briefings of that kind involving the release of information about the activities of our troops.
What is more, on returning to this country a couple of days ago, I was also rather startled to see detailed aerial photographs--I believe that they appeared in The Times, but they probably appeared in other papers also--of a considerable stretch of territory inside Afghanistan with detailed information as to what every dark spot on those photographs was thought to reveal. I always thought that the first principle of intelligence was that you did not let the other side know what you knew. I am damned if I know what that newspaper was doing printing that photograph. My question to my noble friend is, "Is the D notices committee in existence now and, if not, will it be revived, and will she undertake to recommend to the Secretary of State that immediate consideration be given to its revival with all its imperfections?"
The final matter on which I wish to touch briefly is that of SYOPs (psychological operations), which is often considered to be a dirty word. People are afraid of it. Cabinet Ministers are afraid of it. That has been known in governments of all political colours. I believe that SYOPs are extremely important. However, I say without any fear of contradiction that we did not make a good fist of SYOPs at Kosovo. I gave some evidence on that subject in secret to the House of Commons Defence Committee. My evidence was published without sidelining. Therefore, I feel no constraint in making one or two remarks on the subject in your Lordships' House today. The SYOPs attempted in Kosovo were of the most primitive nature both with respect to the messages that were conveyed and the means by which they were conveyed. As a member of the British Government--I was then the Minister in the Ministry of Defence responsible for intelligence and security matters--it was almost impossible to find out what was on the leaflets that were dropped over Serbia. Our psychological operation suffered from an extreme lack of resources and a great lack of interest on the part of senior Ministers.
In my view, SYOPs will be of critical importance in the months ahead, first, in terms of strengthening the coalition and in terms also of persuading Taliban forces to desert and go over to the other side. I hope very much that my noble friend will assure the House that SYOPs will be taken seriously. I do not expect to be given any details of what is being done, but these matters are far too serious to be left to some middle-ranking American officers in Ramstein, where it all happened last time. However, there is nothing wrong with Ramstein. The House may not know that this country has an extremely valuable asset with respect to SYOPs: GCHQ has no fewer than 50 psychologists on its books. I was pretty startled to find that out. That is an enormously valuable asset which we need to deploy with the greatest vigour.
My final message tonight is that I hope very much that SYOPs will be taken far more seriously by this country in the future than they have been in the recent past and that they will gain the attention of Ministers at a senior level.
My Lords, I shall not speak for long. I spoke for four minutes in the previous debate on the subject and I hope to beat that tonight.
I give my personal wholehearted support to the efforts of the Government and the Prime Minister in the past three or four weeks. I hope and trust that the assembled forces and the plans are prepared to ensure that the conflict in Afghanistan is brought to an end quickly and successfully. I am aware of the difficulties in that country and my noble friend Lord Ashdown is even more familiar with them. As has been said, we must not again experience the dangers and the delays that arose from the policy pursued in Kosovo. I hope that the targets which are now being hit will result in the aerial defences being taken out. Then our forces, our aircraft and airmen will be able to tackle individual points of resistance and individual strongholds with accuracy. That should make a tremendous difference to the efforts of any of the Afghan population who are on our side and to those of our own troops on the ground.
I appeal to the Government to proceed with the military action with all vigour because when it is successfully completed one can attend to the needs of the people of Afghanistan who have suffered for 20 years or even longer. As soon as the military action is completed, effective measures can be taken to help the people. As I say, I give my full support to the Government's actions and urge them to proceed with competence and efficiency and to conclude the military action successfully as soon as possible.
My Lords, on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party I rise to offer my and its total and unequivocal support for the action in Afghanistan. I pay tribute to President Bush and to our own Prime Minister, Tony Blair, for their calm and methodical leadership since the beginning of the crisis. I also commend the more than 40 other nations from across the world that have pledged to provide active assistance as Operation Veritas unfolds over the coming days and weeks.
I apologise that I was unable to be present when your Lordships last met to discuss the coalition against international terrorism. However, I believe that I can offer a particularly legitimate excuse in that, along with several other Members of this House, I was a member of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme delegation which visited British troops in Oman. Indeed, I left the desert exercise only some 48 hours ago.
As I am sure your Lordships are very much aware, most of our forces now based in Oman were originally deployed to take part in Exercise Saif Sareea II. The 23,000 British troops participating in this venture represent the largest deployment of UK armed forces since the Falklands War. Many of them are now likely to be asked to take part in missions against the international terrorism network in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Based on my admittedly limited experience of last week, your Lordships will be glad to know that our Armed Forces in Oman are ready. We have been told that last night two missile firing Royal Navy submarines, "HMS Trafalgar" and "HMS Triumph", opened the joint US/UK attack on the Taliban from the Indian Ocean. We are also led to believe that troops from our elite Special Air Service have been on the ground in Afghanistan for some time and yesterday helped to guide the cruise missiles to their targets. Today they are expected to assess the damage inflicted and report back. These are skilled and dedicated men and women whose skill and bravery are both unparalleled and somewhat humbling from a mere mortal's point of view.
Before long we can expect to see more of our Armed Forces engaged in action in the air, on the sea and on the ground. If your Lordships will allow me, however, I should on this occasion like to single out two elements for mention and, indeed, praise based on my experiences not just over the past few days but over several months.
First, I want to mention 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, which, together with the Royal Navy's amphibious ships, represents a highly mobile, self-sustained and versatile organisation with a strategic power projection capability that is unique among the British Armed Forces. Having seen that brigade and, in particular, 45 Commando in action, both in training over the past year and deploying in the desert, I can report to your Lordships that they stand proud, they stand tall and they stand ready for whatever task they may be asked to undertake in the very near future.
I want, too, to mention the existence and importance of 22 Field Hospital, which has also been deployed in Oman and which, indeed, provided me with care when I was briefly taken ill. I want to place on record my thanks for the attention of its staff. More importantly, I want to assure the relatives of those serving in the region that, should their loved ones be unfortunate enough to be either taken ill or injured, the best possible facilities and staff will be on hand to administer treatment.
That unit, which is normally based in the famous military town of Aldershot, has an obvious but absolutely vital role to perform. I am sure that your Lordships will share my wish that 22 Field Hospital becomes the most under-utilised unit in the UK deployment. Casualties are the greatest fear in any war. That said, your Lordships can be assured that these skilled men and women are ready to fulfil their duty if and when they are required to do so.
This is a very difficult time for our nation. However, I believe that it should also be a moment of great pride. The atrocities committed in the United States on 11th September were among the most evil in modern history. Yet the United Kingdom has shown itself to be intolerant of such acts. Alongside our American allies, our Armed Forces have led the fight back. Terrorism is wrong, wherever it is carried out. The military strikes of last evening have demonstrated to those who seek to perpetrate such obscenities against ourselves or our allies that they will never be allowed to succeed.
My Lords, I join with all those who wish that this debate and the third recall of Parliament had not been necessary, with all who hope and trust that the targets will be found rapidly and that the hostilities so recently commenced will not need to escalate and with all those who have emphasised the need for us all to be vigilant and conscientious in fighting the dastardly deeds of terrorists world-wide and in every context.
Much has already been said and, indeed, repeated in the course of the three debates that we have been privileged to hold in your Lordships' House. It is the nature and purpose of today's debate both to seek to update ourselves and to show support for our forces in carrying out the Government's decision. Therefore, I am grateful to the Leader of the House for repeating the Prime Minister's Statement. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, for filling in so many gaps and anticipating the questions to such an extent that I have only two particular lines of inquiry of the noble Baroness, Lady Amos. I do not believe that she will be entirely surprised by either.
The first concerns the importance of keeping in step with our partners and allies in this venture. The noble Lord, Lord Powell of Bayswater, expressed that succinctly, and I agree with what he said. So far as concerns Europe, I believe that the main justification for our originally joining, and now playing a constructive role in, the European Union was to avoid war and its devastation. To my mind, the objective was not only to preserve us from war within Europe.
Members of the Commonwealth also have a vital role to play in the coalition and in the humanitarian consequences that will follow this action. Clearly, the Prime Minister is in close contact with the United States and with our NATO allies. But is the noble Baroness able to provide us with more detail on how and when contact is being made and maintained with our partners in Europe and the Commonwealth to ensure their continuing involvement and support?
The second issue relates to OPEC. The security of supply of oil and gas to an increasingly dependent world has already been referred to. Its importance to economic stability and recovery cannot be emphasised enough. Therefore, what steps are being taken to consult and co-ordinate with the OPEC countries? In particular, given that President Chavez Frias of Venezuela is due to be in the United Kingdom in two weeks' time on an official visit and that Venezuela is a leading member of OPEC and one of its few non-Arab members, what steps will the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary be taking to ensure the co-operation of Venezuela as a leading member of OPEC?
Before closing my brief remarks, I want to say that, like others here, I have friends who are Muslims. They are good people, kind people and gentle people. The teachings of the Koran in no way justify the actions or the rhetoric of bin Laden and his cronies. Therefore, I also very much welcome the initiative of the British Council, with its open-minds policy to encourage mutual understanding and respect between young people from different cultures.
I did not participate in the previous two debates but I attended and listened. What I learnt from that was that, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are a multi-cultural and diverse nation as never before. But we are--at least, in your Lordships' House--all trying to speak with one voice. We want to ensure that the terrible happenings of 11th September, which so tragically affected many individuals from many nations, as well as the equally terrible and long, drawn-out campaign of violence and terror suffered in this country and, in particular, by the people of Northern Ireland, and other acts of terrorism in other parts of the world be brought to universal condemnation and an effective end.
My Lords, I agree with so much of what has just been said. When I was first elected to the other place, my distinguished predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, said to me, "My boy, I give you one piece of advice: never stand long between an audience and its meal". I am rather conscious that I am standing in a rather more dangerous position. I have been in this House for a short time and have now succeeded in speaking in all three of these debates. Therefore, I shall try to keep my comments as short as possible. I have no wish to tempt the patience of the House.
I start by reiterating briefly a point made by my noble friend Lord Wallace. We do not yet know the outcome of this military action, and we do not know--although I wait with some trepidation--whether or not there were any civilian casualties. Nevertheless, I believe that it is possible to know three things.
First, this was a grimly necessary action. Secondly, it was conducted after a period of considerable patience. Thirdly, we believe that it was conducted--as I am sure that we shall discover to be the case--according to the principles of proportionality and precise targeting. Therefore, it is right that the Government should expect our support and right that we should provide it unequivocally, as I do. It is not in any sense to diminish that support nor, indeed, to diminish the effectiveness of the action or the courage of those who took part in it to say that I suspect that thus far at least, and probably in relation to much of the action that is at least visible to us, the effects are likely to be more political than military. We should not be surprised if we discover that the camps that were hit--as many of us thought they would be--have been long deserted or that the buildings that may have been taken on in Kabul were also empty.
Aircraft were in the air last night for political purposes, at least in some part--partly the politics of the United States, whose people needed to feel assuaged in their grief, partly in order to give the American President, who has been very wise in his conduct of these matters, the political room for manoeuvre to develop the long campaign. I suspect that the aid packages dropped today had little substantive effect on what I fear is a huge tide of refugees. However, it is important because it is a visible symbol of a very important piece of politics; namely, that our enemy is not the Afghan people but rather the Taliban in particular, Al'Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
We must recognise that fact. In this long campaign, much of which we shall not see, we need to recognise that the primary battlefield is not who governs in which country, which terrorist camps are operational and which are not or who holds which high pass in Afghanistan: the primary battlefield is rather the hearts and minds of people not just in Afghanistan but also in the Arab nations and in our own Muslim communities.
I turn to my first substantive point. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I repeat this, but I believe it to be important especially at this point in time. I watch my television screen and read my newspapers and find that there are hundreds of press people currently with the Northern Alliance. We hear very little other than press reports from the Northern Alliance towns. I am told that there are currently 120 press teams, including television teams and their cameras, in the Panjshir valley alone.
I should like to make one very simple point. If we either enable or permit the Northern Alliance to use the inevitable vacuum that will be created by the collapse of the Taliban, which I believe is much closer than some people believe, in order simply to move in and reverse the polarity in Afghanistan so that there is a Northern Alliance government run by the Tajikis who have triumphed over the Pashtuns, we may well get rid of the Taliban but we shall find ourselves inheriting a tragedy of equivalent depth, misery and danger. It is absolutely vital that we treat the Tajikis of the North and the Pashtuns of the South--and the Hazara in the middle--as equal partners in the future of Afghanistan.
Although it makes great television coverage and provides good, romantic pictures to be seen standing on tanks in the Panjshir valley of the Northern Alliance, I suspect that the real interesting story at present and the real activity is taking place not in the Northern Alliance-held territories but in the bazaars of Peshawar where we find the careful alliances between the Pashtun tribes who will, as always before, be the people who remove the Taliban, the ruling clique from Kabul. I hope and believe that we are supporting that as well as using in a sensible and careful way our resources to encourage such a move.
My second point relates to the latter. The noble Baroness is right to say that we should not look forward too much to what will follow. However, it is important for us to have some ideas about what we believe ought to follow. I hope that we shall see a government which will represent all the ethnic minorities in Afghanistan--perhaps with the King as a constitutional head. We may not have much influence over how that may be brought about, but we ought at least to know what we would wish to see and what we would not welcome. We should press for a government in Kabul at the end of the process with the following features--first, it should be democratic; secondly, it might perhaps be a constitutional monarchy; thirdly, it should be one that reflects the ethnic make-up of Afghanistan; and, fourthly, most crucially, it should be one that is neutral and not subject to interference from outside.
I do not wish to enter a note of dissent in what ought to be an exercise in supporting the Government. However, I must point out to the noble Baroness that I was very worried when I heard our Prime Minister say during his visit to Pakistan over the weekend words to the effect that we accept that Pakistan has a vital interest in the future of Afghanistan. I accept that, if that interest is in an Afghanistan that is neutral and in which no one interferes. But the bane of Afghanistan during the past 15 years--I do not blame Pakistan for this because we left them in the lurch--has been precisely caused by Pakistani interference. When we pulled out and failed to support them, they felt that they had to have an influence on what went on in neighbouring Afghanistan. They put in Hekmatyr; they brought in the Taliban; and they also allowed Al'Qaeda to go in. Indeed, we actually encouraged that process.
At the end of all this, it surely cannot be in our interests that we repeat the mistakes and allow an Afghanistan with which its neighbours continue to interfere. If we do not have a UN protectorate--and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, previously made a very powerful point about why we could not do so practically--we might have an Afghanistan secured under UN Security Council resolution and committed with guarantor powers to neutrality and to the principle that none of its neighbour states, nor anyone else, should interfere in that process. I hope and believe that that is what the Prime Minister meant when he used that phrase.
I turn to my final point, which relates to a comment made by my noble friend Lord Wallace earlier in the debate. From my point of view, I should like to make one thing clear. I believe that success or failure in this endeavour now depends on whether we win the battle to confine this to Afghanistan or Osama bin Laden wins the battle to spread it to other areas. If we can confine this conflict to Afghanistan, we can win. My belief is that we may be able to win the battle in Afghanistan rather more quickly. I do not refer to the battle against terrorism, which is much bigger and wider. We must try to ensure that it is confined to the borders of Afghanistan. Noble Lords can be sure that Osama bin Laden will do everything that he can to widen this battle and spread it elsewhere thereby making it a battle against the Muslim religion--one with an echo in Saudi Arabia, perhaps even on the streets of Bradford. Above all, he will try to spread this conflict from Afghanistan to the very unstable states of central Asia, north of the Afghanistan border. I have in mind Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. He has very fertile territory in which to achieve that aim.
Uzbekistan is already suffering from Islamic fundamentalist terrorism in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (UMI). In Tajikistan, the government consists of an extremely fragile coalition between a secular party and an Islamic party. These areas are already deeply unstable. They are areas whose rulers are very far from practising the civil rights that we would recognise, although we must accept them as our allies at this moment. The words of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, about one's enemy's enemy being your friend and exercising caution in these matters is very well taken. They may be our friends at the moment, but we must insist on the same standards of Western values from them which, so far, have not been very much in evidence. But, above all, the desperate humanitarian plight of Afghanistan is reflected and repeated, if not in an exaggerated form, in the misery and depths of starvation, poverty and destitution suffered in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. We may want to confine this conflict to Afghanistan; indeed, it is very important that we do so. But our approach to this must be a regional approach and one that also includes recognition of the immense capacity to spread this infection of disruption, destabilisation and conflict out of Afghanistan and, in particular, to the north in Uzbekistan; and perhaps, most especially, to Tajikistan.
We have reached a dangerous and most serious moment. I am not pessimistic. I believe that matters have progressed rather well, so far. However, we now need to ensure that we can play our hands through this process from a position of conflict to one that looks towards the general stability of Afghanistan in particular, and the region as a whole.
My Lords, in a time of crisis it is a very important part of our democracy that there be consultation and advice between government and Parliament. That process involves four factors in the present crisis: the strategy, the legal framework, international action and long-term considerations. I begin with the strategy. The Government and the coalition have embarked on a campaign to eradicate terrorism with a political coalition--with steps to suppress terrorism with appropriate military action and with all available humanitarian aid. I identify the obvious features of that strategy because we have given it unstinting support--unstinting because we are confident that if any one of those factors is subject to any substantial change, the Government will consult Parliament. That has not yet arisen, but it might.
As for the legal framework, we are not in a state of war. It is very important that we in this House and commentators generally use our words carefully. A war exists when declared between states. We must not imagine that the new phenomenon of terrorism requires us to think solely in terms of traditional warlike considerations. We are now in an age when, if attacked, a state can defend itself, especially if that attack constitutes a threat to international peace and security. The current situation is such.
The obligation to defend has arisen and been adopted by the coalition. On 4th October, I identified two prerequisites for such self-defence: it is obvious that it should be necessary; most importantly, it should also be proportionate. That meant, and may yet mean, taking steps far beyond the acts that provoked the need for self-defence, including very substantial military steps to beat the terrorists and to deter the governments that support them. That is all within international law. It does not involve the word "punishment" or the concept of war. It is a state of law that we have adopted and which we should support, especially if in the next few weeks there is any suggestion of extending military action beyond Afghanistan.
As I was coming here this evening it was rumoured on the news that the United States had sent a communication to the secretary-general suggesting that there was going to be such an extension. If that is true, it may yet be justified, but the standards that I have just described should still be applied: is it necessary and is it proportionate? That requirement does not reduce as military steps expand; it perhaps increases. I hope that we can have a reassurance tonight that at present there is no question of extending military action without a justification being properly established. I have emphasised that particular feature of self-defence because such an extension would endanger the coalition that is the hallmark of tonight's debate.
What can be achieved beyond military action? When the firing starts, we tend to forget the battery of non-military armaments that can be used to protect us against terrorism. Security Council resolutions of 12th and 28th September established by unanimous vote that all countries should work together to stop terrorism by attacking its financial support, by containing terrorist activity within a country's boundaries, by co-operating with other states and by promptly introducing a programme to achieve those ends--in other words, to do what was right.
That legal framework should lead to certain action. Inside our country, we need to deal with the extradition process. I am a barrister, but I do not practise the law of extradition. After a recent arrest, I could not believe that it might take three years to resolve the extradition process in this country. There is a perverse irony about that. If criminal proceedings within this country were to take three years, we would call it a breach of human rights. I invite the Government to confirm tonight that they will quickly remedy that.
Further action is also needed outside our country and internationally. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, our ambassador to the United Nations, has just been made chairman of the Security Council's special committee on terrorism. That is a key appointment. It will enable the present Government's policy, so well described by our Prime Minister recently, to be pursued relentlessly in that committee to make the countries of the world accept their obligations. I am sure that we shall hear confirmation from the Government tonight that Sir Jeremy's task and the Government's wider task will be to ensure that the 12 conventions against terrorism are ratified. Why are they not ratified properly? One particularly important convention dealing with suppressing the financing of terrorism has existed since 1999. Can any government put forward a cogent reason for not ratifying that convention? As of Monday last week, Kofi Annan had to pronounce the miserable fact that only four countries had ratified that convention--even in the month since 11th September. Words must be converted into action.
What practical, rather than speculative, long-term considerations are there? One is humanitarian aid. Five million people is a huge population of refugees. It would be absurd, indeed patronising, to suggest that air drops and a short-term programme, even with the generosity of 600 million dollars, will solve that problem. They will not. If that population of refugees are left to fester in their resentment, as the Palestinians have done, the problem will remain. Humanitarian aid should be for the long term.
Lastly--and, I hope your Lordships will agree, extremely importantly--11th September excited shock, provoked fear and involved expectations by citizens, standing together, that their governments would protect them. As Kofi Annan said when opening the special general assembly on terrorism last week:
"The task now is to build on that wave of human solidarity--to ensure that the momentum is not lost, to develop a broad, comprehensive and above all sustained strategy to combat terrorism and eradicate it from our world".
As my noble friend the Minister said in opening the debate, now is a time when we could make a real difference. Our citizens--the world's citizens--expect results. They will not forgive us if we let them down.
My Lords, I was unable to attend the other recent debates and am therefore glad to pay tribute to the work of the Prime Minister. I welcome the Statement and the sense of moral purpose and energy that he has given in building up the international coalition. That has been exciting, pioneering work. His aim for justice in all communities has been commendable. We welcome that.
This afternoon the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said that we are called by God to resist evil, to pursue justice for all and to seek peace and harmony with our neighbour. In the past few days I have met a number of religious leaders in my home and the cities in which I work. I believe that they would agree with those words. I should like to assure the Prime Minister, his advisers and our Armed Forces of our prayers. Like them, we seek a worthy legacy and memorial for the lives of those lost on 11th September and for those who remain the victims of terrorism and other lawless acts within the global community.
God must weep at the mess we have made of this world, a place intended for beauty. The other day my grandchildren, aged four and five, telephoned me from the top of Mount Snowdon. They had not taken the train but had walked to the top. They were "gobsmacked" when they reached the top to find not only Mars bars but lemonade also. The world is meant to be rejoiced in and explored, and we have made a mess of it. As a Christian living in the West, I am afraid that our own history is littered with failures to obey the Creator of life. Those failures point us towards the ideal, to which we are all accountable.
I hope that the principles of freedom and fairness that govern the actions in which we are now involved will never depart from the minds of those who plan them. I ask Her Majesty's Government carefully to consider the anxieties of those who fear that the coalition's objectives could be frustrated by their own actions. That is why it is important to keep our actions permanently under review and why I welcome this prompt recall of Parliament.
Noble Lords may detect that I am nervous about a number of aspects of the action in which we are engaged. I travel and correspond regularly with Christians in Pakistan. I have met refugees from Afghanistan, Christians who fled from the Taliban regime. I am concerned for those small Christian communities and other minority groups in the neighbouring countries around Afghanistan, and for the aid workers. I am also concerned about the military strikes that have been launched.
It is a principle of law that the victim of a crime does not pass sentence or execute judgments. Yet that is the situation in which we now seem to find ourselves. Those guilty of committing the crimes of 11th September are accountable not simply to America but to the whole international community and they need to be brought to justice. However, we need to be sure that it is the whole international community that is involved, otherwise we run the risk of being perceived as the nominally Christian civilisation of the West in conflict with some of the culture of the East. How good it would be if the international coalition in its military constituency was far more representative of the international coalition that has backed the action in which we are engaged. That would help our perceptions.
We are also assured that every step is being taken from the humanitarian point of view to protect the poor in Afghanistan and the countries around it. In that regard, I welcome the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown.
For all the tragedy that took place on 11th September with the loss of nearly 7,000 lives, that number is relatively small compared to the number of people who die each year through lack of clean water and poverty. Yet we do not marshal all our troops and energy and build international coalitions when it comes to raising the small sums that we are asked to raise from our gross national product to support the relief of poverty in the world. We are dropping bread as well as bombs, which is good. However, we need to be sure that that is not just a "softening up" or an attempt to appease our consciences, but is humanitarian on a major scale.
I am concerned too about the Muslim world as a whole and its perception of what is happening. We need to be clear that it is not only the leaders of nations and Muslim communities which back the international community but also, as has been said in this debate, grass roots people in our towns and cities here in England and throughout the world. If we do not get their support, it will be difficult for us to repair the breaches which could easily follow. It would be a tragedy if we found at the end of the day that the leadership is united but the grass roots, the iceberg below the surface, is seething with a wholly different set of assumptions and perceptions about what is happening.
I say that as one who comes from the north of England. In July we had debates concerning Oldham, Bradford, Burnley and the surrounding area. I live among communities that are distinctly and sizeably Jewish and Muslim and I have to say that relationships in our own land still need to be worked at. It is sad to say that it is not only young people who are not stunned by the events of 11th September; there are some middle-aged holy people who felt that what happened on 11th September was bound to happen before long and that, to use their words, not mine, "they had it coming to them".
If those perceptions exist in our grass roots communities, it is no good us meeting in London--I shall return soon to Manchester--and making wise decisions that are not understood, are not perceived to be wise and are not backed by those who live at No. 66 Bury New Road, or whatever the address happens to be, in the cities and towns of our land. I repeat that I am concerned about what is happening at the grass roots of our local communities. I often wonder whether it would be truer to our beliefs if we had made a stronger attempt to isolate bin Laden and demonstrate his isolation within the Muslim world before engaging in the task with which we are now engaged. However, now, we very much back that task. We cannot go back. We pray that the military action will leave the world's international mechanism of justice and accountability strengthened. If it is weakened, our military action will have been in vain.
My Lords, I hope that I shall be forgiven for speaking, fairly briefly, in the gap.
My first job in government many years ago as a junior Minister was in defence. I shall never forget the impression that servicemen and, indeed, women, made on me at that time. Their professionalism was of a particularly high order. Their sense of commitment and service was very special. Therefore, it is altogether right and proper that the services and their families should be in the forefront of our minds this evening. We are fortunate to have services of such calibre in the midst of this crisis.
As I mentioned in the debate last Thursday, I hope that we are also remembering the courage and commitment of the humanitarian workers who are at considerable risk in the front line. We are fortunate to have such workers from Britain and across the world demonstrating what civilised values are about.
I hope that I shall not be accused of having gone over the top if I say that there is somebody else who should be very much at the centre of our concerns tonight. I refer to the Prime Minister. At times, his must be an extremely lonely position. He has shown immense courage and determination. I believe that all of us should send not only our general political support but our sense of feeling and personal solidarity with him in terms of the responsibility he carries.
I am glad that people have referred to the relationship between the international challenge and the situation in our own country. There are other people of whom we should be thinking in the midst of this debate and, indeed, all the time. I refer to the Islamic community in this country. There must be a great deal of anxiety, indeed fear, in that community. Everything that we can do to stretch out our hands in friendship and solidarity with the members of that community at this juncture is essential. That is not just a matter of rhetoric; I refer to the practical, personal things we can do as we go about our lives.
It is reassuring that the Prime Minister has repeatedly emphasised that this is not a war with the people of Afghanistan or a campaign against them. It is not a campaign against Islam but a campaign against terrorism. We cannot say that often enough. However, in making that point I add one word of caution. I do not know whether other noble Lords sometimes share my slight anxiety. I am not sure whether it is for us, who are not Islamic, to interpret what the message of Islam is at this juncture. We should give space to those courageous leaders of the Islamic community who say that. We heard that in last Thursday's debate. That is the powerful message. The more that we tell Islamic people what their faith dictates, the more we may be counterproductive, because our approach may be presented as propaganda on our part.
The humanitarian battle, the Prime Minister emphasised, is every bit as important as the military campaign. We were rightly reminded in this debate that, measured against the size of the human need, what has so far been done and is planned is very small indeed. We must be concerned not just with the immediate situation but with the whole task of reconstruction and of building for the future.
I was glad to hear from the Front Bench that it is envisaged that the United Nations will have an important part to play. That brings me to the thoughts contained in the second powerful speech I was glad to hear made by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon. He made the point about planning politically for the future of Afghanistan. It is not too soon to start thinking about that. My noble friend Lord Richard gave an important message in that regard. There is a role for the UN in facilitating exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, advocated--ensuring a genuinely representative government who are properly resourced and supported. It is not too soon, as was suggested, to be talking to the secretary-general about how that might practically be done and about how the real support for a difficult task could be provided.
A criticism, which has some validity, was made of what happened in the Balkans; namely, that we did not think hard enough, early enough, about winning the peace as well as winning the war. We have to think now about winning the peace alongside the task of winning the war. The noble Lord, with all of his experience, was absolutely right to make that point last Thursday and again today.
There is another reason why we need to think of the UN. I do not apologise for again making a point that I tried to make last Thursday. We have to look at the operation not just as we see it from Britain, the United States or Europe but also as it is seen by millions of people from other parts of the world. We may or may not like it, and it may or may not be valid, but it is a hard reality that there are many intelligent, thinking people in other parts of the world who are troubled by an arrogance that they perceive on the part of the industrialised, leading nations of the world, who seem to want to run and manage the world in their way. If we are going to win the peace and build security and stability for the future, we have to demonstrate that what we are doing has the authority of the United Nations, which is the global institution in which those other countries have a stake, and that in building for the future, the United Nations has a crucial part to play just because their voice is part of the total scenario. That scenario does not simply involve surrendering power to those who are already powerful; it involves ensuring that the people of the world as a whole are brought aboard and feel that they have a stake in working out the solutions. That will take a lot of statesmanship, determination and bigness, if I may use the term, but it will also be indispensable.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire has already discussed the armed response of the coalition against terrorism. I shall focus on the humanitarian aspect, which is just as necessary. In that respect, I was glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, cancelled her trip to Africa to respond to tonight's debate.
The first speeches that I heard on this subject were at the Liberal Democrat Conference. Speaker after speaker urged caution, but not because we felt that it was not necessary to remove the malevolent threat of international terrorism. We need to take into account the fact that a response that involves acting out of revenge could breed more terrorism.
Planes are attacking Afghanistan purely and simply because the Taliban regime made itself a target by supporting bin Laden and the Al'Qaeda terrorist movement. It is shocking to people from a democracy that a regime ruling a country could support terrorists over and above the needs of its own people.
Afghanistan has suffered terribly during the past few years--four years of severe drought and 20 years of civil war have left it reliant on food aid. The Taliban regime showed its true nature by not making any provision for stockpiling food for this winter. Indeed, food piles of the World Food Programme were requisitioned by the Taliban for its troops in the front line. Food not getting in would have created a crisis but at the moment it appears that there will be a catastrophe because no food can move within the country. Food aid in the form of, I believe, 37,500 ration packs was dropped last night in Afghanistan. That is a valuable contribution, although air drops will not be enough. It has been estimated that more than 50,000 tonnes of food will be needed each month. The only way in which that can be brought into the country is through land corridors.
The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, praised the work of NGOs. I echo his words about those groups, including Feed the Children, Oxfam and Christian Aid, which launched an appeal for donations. The World Food Programme, which has done much to supply the needs of Afghanistan over the past few years, could provide the necessary food. However, it would be foolhardy for the aid agencies to try to transport food into Afghanistan without the provision of safe routes there and the means of distributing it when the roads run out.
In Afghanistan millions are at risk of starvation this winter. Food provision is vital but, as many noble Lords have said, it is only half of the solution. As the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, pointed out, Afghanistan has one of the largest refugee populations in the world--there are vast numbers of Afghanistan people in Iran and Pakistan.
Stable government is needed in Afghanistan. For the welfare of the population, no provision of food or aid will provide the means of support that will be supplied by a stable government. One of the aims of the Department for International Development is conflict prevention. As the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, pointed out, the coalition is targeting its actions very carefully. We and the Government must consider that carefully. As my noble friend Lord Ashdown pointed out, the whole area is at risk. We do not need to look only at Afghanistan in that regard; a close parallel can be found in the horrendous situation that resulted from the collapse of Zaire which sucked in every other country in the region. Some of those countries have suffered disastrous results.
I do not have the long list of questions which the noble Baroness would normally expect. I simply wish to say that we on these Benches support the fight against terrorism. This will be a long campaign. But the work of the Government, especially through the work of DfID, to build up a lasting and sustainable peace, will need just as much commitment, far more resources and take a far longer time to achieve.
My Lords, it saddens me that we are assembled once again for such a sombre occasion. We on these Benches fully support the action that has been taken. This has been an exceptional emergency debate. In the circumstances the task of responding is quite daunting.
Humanitarian assistance is now recognised by President Bush and our Prime Minister as a factor equal in importance to the diplomatic and military action in this conflict, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Judd. The humanitarian assistance conveys, too, an essential message which is also understood by public opinion to be maintaining the all-important coalition. I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Powell of Bayswater, in his interesting speech, on the importance of maintaining the coalition when the going gets tough.
Twenty-two years after the Soviet Union sent tanks across its border, sparking two decades of conflict and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, Afghanistan is at the point of total catastrophe and ghastly poverty, as was so rightly mentioned by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford. With the winter only a few weeks away, 7.5 million people will face starvation. The evil Taliban regime has been destroying so many people's lives for too many years, especially those of women, as was stressed by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes.
With aid being almost impossible to deliver by road, it is reassuring to hear that, despite the bombing, aid packages will also be dropped. That is vital for bringing world opinion on side as well as saving lives. We need to dispel the fears arising from the report in the Financial Times that the UN had difficulties with the Taliban guaranteeing safe air corridors to allow wheat to be flown in. I gather from a friend of mine who is closely linked with aid to Afghanistan that the drops are successful and that is the best news ever. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, we feel that the drops are a start. Of course, more will be needed later.
I wondered whether the Government could clarify two concerns on which I touched last week. First, will the Government ensure that the refugee camps meet international standards and that no one country will have to bear a disproportionate burden, which could easily swamp and destabilise the area? Most importantly, in the longer term we should think about reconstructing the Afghan homeland so that the refugees can return home safely, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Richard. One of Afghanistan's main problems is the lack of water. Over the past 20 years of war, their irrigation systems have collapsed. The restoration of those systems would save millions of lives. We have lessons to learn too from Kosovo, where the Danube is still not navigable.
Secondly, how do we make certain that the aid is getting into the right hands? We on these Benches support the concern over the charity workers still detained, mentioned so rightly by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester.
I conclude by quoting the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who said,
"We are gearing up to deal with 1.5 million new refugees to add to the 3.5 million already in camps in Pakistan and Iran. These figures are based on the worse case scenario, but then we must be prepared for the worst. Today we are witnessing an unprecedented global effort to combat terrorism. We need a similar unique effort to deal with the possible humanitarian consequences".
My Lords, I begin by thanking noble Lords for participating in what has been a good debate. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, used the word "trust". It has been and continues to be important that the consensus we have worked so hard to achieve internationally is reflected in the terms in which we debate and discuss these matters in this House. I thank noble Lords for the support demonstrated this evening and for the commendation of the leadership shown by the Prime Minister.
I will focus my remarks on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan before moving on to deal with defence and political matters. As the Prime Minister has repeatedly made clear, the international humanitarian effort is as important as the military and diplomatic effort. It is important to remember that the people of Afghanistan were facing a crisis before 11th September.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, mentioned in particular the ravages of war. Twenty years of war and three years of drought have contributed to a huge loss of life and tremendous human suffering. Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries. It has one of the world's highest child and maternal mortality rates. Disability is common--a consequence of the large numbers of land mines that litter the country. Health and education services have virtually disappeared and women and girls have suffered grievously from the limitations of movement, education and employment imposed by the Taliban.
Conflict and drought created over 4 million refugees even before the events of 11th September--2 million in Pakistan, 1.5 in Iran and 0.5 million elsewhere in the region and beyond. Since summer 2000 between 700,000 and 900,000 people became newly displaced within Afghanistan. I can say to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, that the matter of refugee camps is being looked at carefully by UNHCR.
The UK Government have been at the forefront in terms of providing humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable people of Afghanistan. Since 1997, DfID has provided over £32 million to the people of Afghanistan for emergency food, shelter, healthcare and water support, as well as support for agriculture, mines clearance, education and human rights advocacy and monitoring. Those resources have been channelled through a range of UN agencies, the ICRC and NGOs.
As was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, before 11th September the Taliban regime made the humanitarian effort difficult. But since that date all international staff have been withdrawn and the Taliban has threatened local staff with death if they use telephones. There was also some looting of World Food Programme warehouses. For those reasons World Food Programme convoys were halted. But in the past week convoys were moving again and we had reached delivery levels of 500 metric tonnes per day. Our aim is to double that amount so that stockpiles can be laid down for the winter months. It is important that we remember the work being undertaken by humanitarian workers from all the aid agencies.
Since 11th September the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has worsened. In response to the worsening situation UN agencies have appealed for nearly 600 million dollars for six months. Responses from the international community have met that target. Before the appeal, the UK Government had responded and provided 55 million dollars, most of which has already been dispersed. Two flights with emergency supplies left the UK last week. Our priority is to resume large movements of food and other crucial supplies as soon as possible. To that end, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development is liaising with the MoD.
We are also working as part of the international community to stockpile resources in all neighbouring countries, and we are grateful for the co-operation that has been provided by those countries. We are also helping the surrounding countries to deal with the impact of the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. On 28th September we provided a further £11 million for immediate short-term support for the poorer communities of Pakistan, especially those most directly affected by the influx of refugees from Afghanistan. We have deployed humanitarian specialists to Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Further specialist support is preparing to deploy to Iran.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester spoke of the need to support small Christian communities in countries such as Pakistan. The role of Pakistan is crucial. We need to help that country both with its short-term needs, with economic reform and with its transition to democracy, including work with NGOs and faith groups. We have been engaged in this work for some time. The legacy of corrupt and inefficient government in previous years is stark: low growth, increasing indebtedness and worsening poverty indicators. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development will visit Pakistan soon to discuss both the humanitarian situation and the work we are doing to support Pakistan's reform agenda.
Perhaps I may now turn to defence and the wider political issues. The military action, which was meticulously planned against exclusively terrorist and Taliban military targets, forms a part of the international coalition's measured and justified response to the outrages of 11th September and are a clear demonstration of its resolve to deal with international terrorism. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, that we shall proceed with all vigour. I shall repeat what was said earlier by my noble friend Lady Symons and alluded to by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner. The targets have been selected with extreme care in order to minimise any risk to civilian life.
As has been said many times, we have no quarrel with the Afghan people, or with Islam. We have repeatedly made it clear that we are not fighting those of the Islamic faith and I endorse the views expressed this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, and by my noble friend Lord Judd in this regard.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, stressed the importance of working multilaterally. The noble Lord, Lord Powell, spoke of the need to maintain the global coalition over the long term. The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, also stressed that point. She asked specifically about our work within the EU, with our Commonwealth partners and with OPEC. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary today visited Luxembourg to attend a GAC meeting, so our work with our EU partners continues. Our Commonwealth partners are kept up to date on a regular basis, as are OPEC members through direct contact at ministerial level as well as through the work of our ambassadors and high commissioners on the ground. Noble Lords will wish to know that my noble friend Lord Bach is fulfilling a longstanding invitation to visit Malaysia. While there, he will take the opportunity to speak with allies and to set out and reaffirm the objectives of the coalition. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence is on his way to Moscow. My ministerial colleagues are in regular contact with their counterparts in allied nations.
I can assure my noble friend Lord Brennan that UK participation in this military action is in accordance with international law. The international coalition has indicated that the struggle against international terrorism will be long and multi-faceted, embracing diplomatic, financial, economic and humanitarian aspects, as well as military objectives, all aimed at securing the twin goals of justice and security. We remain steadfast in our commitment to bringing to justice Osama bin Laden and those others responsible for the outrages in the United States; to remove the continuing threat; to break up terrorist and support networks in Afghanistan; and to end once and for all the link between Afghanistan and terror.
With regard to UN conventions on combating terrorist finance, I should say to my noble friend Lord Brennan that the UK was one of the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on Combating Terrorist Finance on the basis of our existing extensive law. We are pushing hard to persuade other countries to ratify the convention so that it can come into effect.
My noble friend Lord Richard asked specifically about the future, and in particular about the role of the UN, as did my noble friend Lord Judd. The appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi as the UN special envoy to Afghanistan should help to bring all efforts aimed at securing a peaceful solution to the Afghan problem under the UN umbrella. I am pleased to be able to tell noble Lords that Mr Brahimi will be visiting the UK tomorrow and will call on my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for International Development and the Foreign Secretary.
A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, my noble friend Lord Richard and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, raised the issue of the political situation in Afghanistan, referring in particular to the future of the Taliban regime. The international community has been looking for ways to help Afghanistan for some time. The Weston Park conference, which we hosted at the request of the UN, demonstrates that. Our aim has always been clear: to promote a peaceful political solution aimed at the establishment of a broad-based government in Afghanistan. The composition of any future government would be for the Afghan people to decide. For a government to be viable, all elements of Afghanistan's diverse society--I repeat, all elements--will have to be represented. Any political solution will need to be supported by a comprehensive rehabilitation programme to improve conditions for the Afghan people.
I assure my noble friend Lord Gilbert that information operations, as I am reliably informed they are now more correctly known, continue to be part of our military capabilities. My noble friend will also know that we do not comment on the intelligence services, but my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced that following the events of 11th September we are seeking to rebalance our capabilities. My right honourable friend said that we must have the right concepts, the right levels of forces and the right capabilities.
A number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Gilbert, asked about the charity workers held in Afghanistan. I assure noble Lords that we remain greatly concerned about their fate. But I remind noble Lords that they are still in custody and that it is important that we are all vigilant and careful about the terms we use to discuss their situation.
The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, raised issues relating to the Middle East and the peace process. We must not be deflected from the fundamental aim of international efforts in the Middle East for a political process leading to a negotiated settlement based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the principle of land for peace, security for Israel within recognised borders and an end to occupation.
The dispute between Israel and her Arab neighbours remains the most destabilising issue we face in the Middle East. Helping to bring about a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region is the best way in which we and our allies can contribute to stamping out the evil of Middle East terrorism. With the United States, our EU partners and others, we are playing a central role in international efforts to reinvigorate the peace process. During his recent visit to the Middle East my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary pressed regional leaders to do all they could to contribute towards the search for peace in the region. Our priority now is to see dialogue re-established between President Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres develop into sustained contact leading to swift and full implementation of the Mitchell committee recommendation.
Before I conclude, I should like to join my noble friend Lord Judd and the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, in paying tribute to our Armed Forces. They are vital to our success. Our thoughts are with them and their families.
In conclusion I say something about the future of Afghanistan. We must deal with the current crisis, military and humanitarian, but, as many noble Lords have said, our commitment to Afghanistan must be long term. The cost, duration, scale and complexity of the recovery programme for that country will be immense. That will require sustained political engagement and large scale financial assistance from the international community over the next 10 to 20 years. That country has suffered terribly from war, drought, poverty and, most recently, under the repressive Taliban regime. I repeat the Prime Minister's comment that we will stand with the people of Afghanistan not just through this crisis, but support them in putting in place a more inclusive government which will work with the people of Afghanistan to rehabilitate the country and offer its people hope for the future.