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Afghanistan

Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the frequency, scale and sophistication of Taliban attacks on British forces in Helmand Province. (84562)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his most recent assessment is of the (a) strength and (b) fighting capability of (i) the Taliban and (ii) other illegal armed groups in Afghanistan. (84896)

We continuously monitor and assess all known threats to our forces. The frequency and scale of attacks against our forces has increased as we have deployed the Helmand Taskforces to the south of Afghanistan. These attacks vary in sophistication. However, disclosure of details would, or would be likely to, prejudice the security of the armed forces. Neither the Taliban, nor the range of illegally armed groups, currently pose a threat to the long-term stability of Afghanistan.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the average extra flying hours for (a) attack and (b) support helicopters in Afghanistan since flying hours were extended; and by what methods these increased flying hours were achieved. (85110)

Flying hours are allocated on a monthly basis and were first extended in June. The increased hours are achieved by servicing the aircraft more frequently.

Hours have been increased by up to 39 per cent. depending on aircraft type. It would not be appropriate to go into the detail of how many hours this constitutes as to do so would give unnecessary advantage to enemy forces and put the lives of our personnel at risk.

As I announced on 10 July, a further uplift in both fixed wing and helicopter support is planned. There are a number of other helicopter assets operating in Southern Afghanistan, including Helmand province that the UK can draw on for support.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether (a) ISAF and (b) British forces have (i) provided intelligence for specific anti-narcotics operations in Afghanistan, (ii) air-lifted and provided secure transport for Afghan forces taking part in anti-narcotics operations and (iii) provided protective cordons for Afghan forces taking part in anti-narcotics operations. (85754)

A key element of both the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) mission is to support the Government of Afghanistan and its security forces. British forces, along with ISAF forces operating in other parts of Afghanistan, have and will continue to support the Afghan forces in a number of ways. As well as the ongoing mentoring process, this includes the sharing of intelligence, provision of transport and protective cordons where appropriate.