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Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Volume 496: debated on Monday 20 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many explosions caused by improvised explosive devices were recorded by the armed forces in Afghanistan in (a) 2007, (b) 2008 and (c) 2009 to date. (283559)

Records of incidents for the whole of Afghanistan are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Data are more readily available for attacks within Regional Command (South), which includes the vast majority of UK forces deployed to Afghanistan.

The following table shows all improvised explosive device detonations in Regional Command (South):













































These figures do not include improvised explosive device finds with no detonation or improvised explosive device false alarms. These figures are based on information derived from a number of sources and can only be an estimate, not least because of the difficulties in ensuring a consistent interpretation of the basis of collating statistics in a complex fast-moving multinational operational environment.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what investigations his Department has undertaken into incidents involving civilian death or injury as a result of the use by British forces of enhanced blast munitions in Afghanistan. (284854)

UK forces thoroughly investigate all reports of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, regardless of their potential cause. We regret incidents where civilians are accidentally killed as a result of actions by UK armed forces. In addition to investigating all reports of civilian casualties, procedures are in place, and being constantly updated in the light of experience, to minimise the risk of these casualties occurring.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which UK helicopter types were deployed in Afghanistan as at 13 July 2009; and if he will make a statement. (287699)

ISAF helicopter support in Regional Command (South) in Afghanistan is provided through a multinational pool to which the UK makes a significant contribution. The UK currently has Chinook, Sea King and Lynx helicopters deployed to undertake combat support roles, and in addition has Apache attack helicopters deployed in theatre.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on day landings at Kandahar airbase. (287928)

The Ministry of Defence takes a risk based approach to landings at all operational bases, including Kandahar airbase. The level of risk takes into account the task concerned, the security situation and the aircraft. I am withholding further information on this subject as its disclosure would prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of the Mk3 Chinooks currently being upgraded he expects will be deployed to Afghanistan; and what the dates of deployment will be. (287936)

We are converting the eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters to a support helicopter role. The first of these aircraft will be delivered to operational squadrons before the end of this year thus increasing the pool of Chinooks available for deployment. It is for the chain of command to determine how many and which of their aircraft should be deployed and when.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what supplies were lost when the Mi-26T helicopter carrying supplies to a British base in Afghanistan crashed on 14 July 2009; and of what nationality the crew members of that helicopter were. (288220)

The Mi-26T helicopter was carrying non-sensitive cargo, including food and fuel, when it crashed. The crew members were Ukrainian.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) types of aircraft and (b) nationality of aircraft crews other than British, American and Canadian supply British forces in Afghanistan. (288221)

A combination of UK military and civilian charter aircraft are used to transport supplies to British forces in Afghanistan. Within Afghanistan, supplies are delivered to UK forces by UK Hercules and C17 aircraft, UK Chinook, Sea King and Lynx helicopters and by helicopters from troop contributing nations in Regional Command (South). Within Regional Command (South), helicopter support is provided from a multinational pool of helicopters, to which the UK makes a significant contribution. The UK also makes use of a range of civilian helicopters through the NATO logistics supply contract and a UK contract for transporting non-sensitive stores.

We are not able to comment on the types of helicopter deployed by other nations in Regional Command (South) or on the nationality of the crews which operate them, since this is a matter for each individual nation. Contracts for helicopter assets are let for the provision of a capability. Consequently, the types of contracted helicopter and the nationality of those who operate them are a matter for the contractor.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the maximum number of (a) Royal Navy and (b) Royal Air Force helicopters is which could be deployed in Afghanistan. (288238)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) gave on 17 June 2009, Official Record, column 338W, to the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox).

Helicopters and crews from all three services continue to serve with distinction in Afghanistan. We have already deployed to Afghanistan the maximum number of helicopters that are both properly equipped for the challenges of the operational theatre, and that we can sustain on an enduring basis. While it would be possible to surge additional helicopters into theatre on a temporary basis, this would be unsustainable over time and would severely impact upon the achievement of harmony guidelines for helicopter air and ground crews and training of new and existing crews. We are working hard to increase the number of deployed helicopters but we need to do so sustainably. That is why we have been investing in additional aircraft and crews, logistics and infrastructure, as well undertaking significant modifications to our existing helicopter fleet to enhance their capabilities.

Helicopter capability is measured by flying hours rather than airframe numbers. The helicopter fleet is managed to ensure that our operational and other commitments are met, including an 84 per cent. increase in flying hours in Afghanistan between November 2006 and April 2009.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 11 June 2009, Official Report, column 999, on armed conflict: Afghanistan, what his policy is on the introduction of a single, uniform system by which all members of the International Security Assistance Force investigate and provide compensation to civilian casualties. (283871)

A civilian casualties tracking cell has been established by NATO ISAF to investigate reports, with the Government of Afghanistan, of alleged incidents involving ISAF in Afghanistan.

As detailed in my answer of 11 June 2009, Official Report, column 999W, compensation claims brought against the Ministry of Defence as part of the International Security Assistance Force are considered on the basis of whether or not the Department has a legal liability to pay compensation. Where there is a proven legal liability, under UK law, compensation is paid.

Other members of the International Security Assistance Force will also assess liability when considering compensation claims though this will be against their own national law. This therefore precludes the implementation of a uniform system for providing compensation for civilian casualties.