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Volume 448: debated on Monday 3 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his assessment is of the current strength and quality of the Afghan National Army; and if he will make a statement. (81139)

Around 28,200 Afghan National Army soldiers have been trained and equipped under a US-led development programme. The five Afghan National Army regional commands are now operational. Afghan troops, supported by the UK’s operational mentor and liaison team, have already performed well alongside UK forces in the south of Afghanistan.

The international community is investing significant resources in increasing the Afghan National Army’s capability still further. The UK’s contribution to this includes non-commissioned officer and junior officer training in Kabul, and an operational mentor and liaison team in Helmand.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his assessment is of the technological capabilities of the weaponry used by (a) the Taliban and (b) al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. (81140)

We continuously monitor the weaponry used by insurgent forces in Afghanistan. To date a wide range of weapons have been used including small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices. Mostly these are low technology weapons and components that are widely available.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his assessment is of the possible threat posed by the infiltration of experienced insurgents of the Iraq conflict into Helmand province. (81141)

There is no credible evidence that insurgents or terrorists from Iraq have infiltrated into Afghanistan.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the order of battle is for the deployment of UK forces in Afghanistan. (81409)

I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend, the then Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid), on 26 January 2006, Official Report, columns 1529-33, which outlines the UK forces order of battle in Afghanistan.

In addition I also refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statements made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces on 25 April 2006, Official Report, column 35WS, announcing the extension to March 2007 of six UK Harriers to provide support to both the International Security Assistance Force and Operation Enduring Freedom and, on 15 June 2006, Official Report, columns 67-68WS, announcing the deployment of a further 130 personnel from the RAF Regiment to provide a specialised force protection capability at Kandahar Airfield.

As with all deployments, any significant changes to this will be announced in the House in due course.