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Volume 475: debated on Monday 28 April 2008

7. What role the armed forces are playing in providing humanitarian relief in southern Afghanistan. (201532)

The primary focus of the international security assistance force mission is to assist the Government of Afghanistan in the maintenance and extension of security. Practical support for reconstruction and development efforts is one of ISAF’s key supporting tasks.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Given the situation in southern Afghanistan and the Taliban’s cowardly attacks on the international aid agencies working in that area, when does he think the situation might sufficiently improve to allow aid agencies to return and re-establish their vital work?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is important that the work that the Afghan Government do is supported by non-governmental organisations. More important is the presence of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in southern Afghanistan. I am confident that under the leadership of Kai Eide, who has recently been appointed to the co-ordination role, we will see an early presence for the mission in Helmand province. That will be a sign to many organisations that they can come and work with us, but we should not ignore those organisations that are doing good work there now, many of which are Afghan-based NGOs.