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Volume 470: debated on Thursday 17 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the Statement by the Prime Minister of 12 December 2007, Official Report, column 304, on Afghanistan, what plans his Department has to recruit and deploy specialists who speak Afghan languages and understand tribal dynamics. (175462)

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's statement referred to plans made specifically by the FCO to recruit more specialists who speak Afghan languages and understand tribal dynamics. The FCO is currently looking at various options for recruiting and deploying such specialists. It is also training its political officers in local languages and is looking at how the UK-based Afghan diaspora might help contribute to reconstruction in Afghanistan.

DFID Afghanistan does, however, recognise the importance of these skills for work in the south of Afghanistan and is talking to the FCO, MOD and Stabilisation Unit about the future staffing of Helmand, which will include provision of such specialists.

DFID is also already working with organisations which have expertise in both areas. These include the Tribal Liaison Office (an Afghan NGO) which deploys a network of Afghan tribal experts across the southern provinces and a number of long-standing Afghanistan academic experts. These experts help inform the design and implementation of elements of DFID conflict prevention and governance programmes using both their knowledge of tribal dynamics and their Dari or Pashto language skills with the local population. DFID is also funding the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (an Afghan NGO) to conduct tribal analysis and mapping to inform their work within each province.