To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential (a) geostrategic and (b) geopolitical merits of the UK's withdrawal from Afghanistan for (i) national defence, (ii) international stability and (iii) democracy in Afghanistan.
Our primary objective when we deployed to Afghanistan 20 years ago was to ensure that it wasn't used as a base for international terrorism. There has not been a successful international terrorist attack on the West mounted from Afghanistan since. Those countries who were brave enough to send their Armed Forces to serve in Afghanistan enabled the progress that was made across the country as a whole. Afghanistan now has a burgeoning civil society, with a free press and an education system. Compared to 2001, 8.2 million more children are now in school. Life expectancy has increased from 56 years (2002) to 64 (2018). Maternal mortality has almost halved and infant mortality has decreased faster than any low-income country since 2001. Under the Taliban, women were excluded from governance; today women hold over a quarter of the seats in Afghanistan's parliament. As the Prime Minister said on 8 July, the international military presence was never intended to be permanent. The UK remains committed to supporting Afghanistan on its path to a more peaceful and positive future and strongly supports efforts to energise the Afghan peace process. Only a negotiated and inclusive settlement will bring sustainable peace.