Kandahar Airfield plays an essential role in the British and Allied military commitment to the rebuilding of Afghanistan, a role that is likely to increase as the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) expands into the south of the country. It is important, therefore, that collectively we ensure the airfield and the aircraft that use it are suitably protected.
The UK has been using Kandahar as a base for its Harrier GR7 Force since September 2004 and now has much of our deployed helicopter fleet there. It is only right that the UK shares some of the burden in protecting this joint facility. While we currently provide some help, we are well placed to make that help still more effective. We have a specialist airfield defence capability that few of our partners have and the skills it would bring will enhance security arrangements at Kandahar Airfield.
I have accordingly decided to commit the 130-strong 34 Squadron of the RAF Regiment to Kandahar Airfield. This unit will deploy within the next few weeks and join Afghan, Canadian, Romanian and US forces defending the airfield and its environs. I am confident that this is an appropriate national contribution to the crucial task of protecting a facility of central importance to the success of the wider NATO mission in Afghanistan.