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Volume 454: debated on Monday 11 December 2006

The UK contingent in Kosovo amounts to a total of 175 personnel, as part of NATO’s overall force of about 16,500. We intend to keep that level of commitment in place until the Kosovo settlement process has run its course and the security situation is considered to be stable and self-sustaining. Our next force level review is likely to take place in summer 2007, when it is anticipated that NATO will confirm its intentions for Kosovo.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that response. Does he agree that the critics of our intervention in the Balkans and Kosovo were totally wrong and that there are many Muslims and others alive today as a direct result of British, US, NATO and European Union forces bringing peace and stability to that region?

I do. That is a good point. I was in Bosnia about two weeks ago with the Bosnian Defence Minister, on the very day when Bosnia was granted partnership for peace involvement with NATO. That shows an amazing step forward in a short time. When one considers what is happening in that country, and looks around and sees the developments that have taken place—not just in terms of defence restructuring, but across society—we should congratulate ourselves as a nation on what we did in the Balkans, not just in Bosnia, but in Kosovo. We can take great pride in it and that is how they view our contribution. Those who criticised us at the time should say sorry.

Does the Minister acknowledge that a significant number of people deployed in the Balkans are, and have been, members of the Territorial Army? The answer to the previous question was curiously complacent. The fact is that of the 42,000 people in the strategic defence review supposedly in the TA, currently 36,000 of them—

May I remind the Minister that I strongly supported the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo? Does he agree, for once, with General Sir Mike Jackson, who has pointed out that NATO has not had anything like the credit that it deserves for supporting Muslim rights, human rights and lives in those two parts of the world? Does he accept that there is a real danger that NATO may have to enforce any settlement after the results of the elections are known in January? Where are the troops going to come from to do that, given our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s opening sentiment. I pointed out that there are currently 16,500 NATO troops in Kosovo. Recently, there has been significant unrest on the street. All that has been dealt with well and contained. Clearly, judgments have to be made as we move towards that final status and those final negotiations. Given the strength and capabilities of that force of 16,500 in Kosovo—it would be a matter of military judgment whether that was sufficient—up until now, it has shown that it is able to stabilise that region and to deliver. Of course, increasingly we are getting more buy-in from the wider community in Kosovo. They want what everybody else wants in the Balkans: peace and security. They have it in their own hands to deliver it, but we will make sure that we continue to help them to achieve that. If it becomes difficult, as ever we will make sure that we succeed and those who are trying to destroy peace and stability will fail.