Working alongside the Government of Afghanistan and our partners from the United Nations and NATO, our strategic aim is a secure and stable Afghanistan, with a self-sustaining economy, strong institutions and broad-based representative government committed to eradicating terrorism, eliminating opium production, reducing poverty, and respecting human rights. We assess progress is being made against these objectives, especially in areas such as the development of democracy, the fostering of minority rights (87 women sit in the Afghan Parliament) and the development of a legitimate economy: for example, the International Monetary Fund estimated Afghanistan’s economic growth averaged around 22 per cent. between 2002 and 2004, 8 per cent. in 2004-05 and up to 14 per cent. in 2005-06. The security situation has also developed substantially with the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force across the entire country, a development in which the British armed forces played a substantial role.
The deployment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, was announced on 26 January 2006, Official Report, column 1529-1533). Since then, as part of the routine process of reviewing and evaluating our force structure, the Ministry of Defence has received, and actioned, a number of requests through the chain of command for changes to the military capabilities and equipment deployed. In addition, we conduct more substantial periodic Force Level Reviews which examine equipment and personnel levels.
As a result of these well-proven processes, I have announced; the deployment of some 130 troops of the RAF Regiment, 15 June 2006, Official Report, column 67, a force uplift of some 870 troops, 10 July 2006, Official Report, column 1131-35, the deployment of two extra Chinook Helicopters, 24 July 2006, Official Report, column 76, a new vehicle package (Mastiff and Vector) for operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and the deployment of an additional Harrier, 18 September 2006, Official Report, column 136.
[holding answer 18 December 2006]: The UK Government have not received any formal requests from the Afghan authorities or third party countries to agree to the transfer of detainees from the Afghan authorities to the authority of another state, including detention in another country. Nor has the UK Government had any formal requests from third party countries for the direct transfer of detainees from UK custody to theirs.
(2) how many individuals arrested and detained in Afghanistan by UK armed forces have been transferred to the authorities of Afghanistan since the date on which the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the UK and the Government of Afghanistan on the transfer of detainees came into effect.
[holding answer 18 December 2006]: The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the UK and the Government of Afghanistan on the transfer of detainees was signed on 30 September 2006. Since then, three individuals have been held in detention by UK armed forces. One was subsequently transferred to the Afghan authorities and two were released.
Although there have been some minor procedural problems with the timely notification of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, both organisations have been informed about these detentions, and all other detentions which took place before the MoU was signed. We are working with both organisations with a view to ensuring that in future all notifications will occur in a timely manner.
[holding answer 18 December 2006]: The Secretary of State regularly receives reports on a wide range of operational matters from the Chiefs of Staff including the security situation in Afghanistan.
There are currently approximately 6,000 troops deployed on Operations in Afghanistan; 5,000 in Southern Afghanistan and 1,000 Kabul.
I am withholding information regarding the number of troops deployed in specific locations in Southern Afghanistan as disclosure of such information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.