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Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Volume 502: debated on Monday 14 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the maximum cash allowance awarded to (a) military and (b) civilian staff in Afghanistan will be for 2010. (300675)

Significant differences in the terms and conditions of employment for military personnel and their civilian colleagues within the MOD make direct comparisons between the two very difficult. Moreover, it is difficult to predict allowances for the whole of 2010, since they are not subject to an annual increase but rather the result of periodic review.

The maximum monthly allowance for a MOD civilian in Afghanistan is £7,750. The quoted figure is before tax and is based on the most senior individual working in Helmand Province, undertaking a working week in excess of 82 hours. Allowances paid to civil servants reflect the significant additional hours worked above and beyond their contracted working week and the unique conditions experienced in theatre. They vary considerably and are dependent on an individual's grade, location and working week. Should the conditions in theatre remain as they are currently, then the quoted figure will remain unchanged in 2010.

It is harder to be precise about the level of military allowances. Service pay and conditions are completely different to those of their civilian counterparts and the precise sum of the whole package that military personnel receive, including the tax-free operational allowances, will depend on their rank, personal circumstances and experience. The military package, which includes an X-factor for all schooling allowances and housing for the eligible, is designed to take account of the unique nature of military life. Full details of the Service Pay and Allowance Package are available on the Armed Forces Benefits Calculator internet site available at the following link:

www.mod-abc.co.uk

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he plans to take to (a) increase force readiness levels and (b) maintain the present level of UK commitment to the war in Afghanistan. (303148)

Current operations in Afghanistan remain the main effort for our armed forces and the Ministry of Defence. We are committed to an enduring force level of 9,500 as announced by the Prime Minister on 30 November 2009, Official Report, column 832-36.

We acknowledge the pressure these operations place on our contingent capability. As I said to the House of Commons Defence Committee on 24 November 2009, readiness levels have improved this year and we are committed to continuous improvement to the UK's contingent capacity, focusing on those contingency tasks most likely to arise.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on potential EU military contributions to the campaign in Afghanistan. (303885)

I have had numerous bilateral discussions with our European allies on their national contributions to the NATO-led campaign in Afghanistan, though not in the context of a specific EU military contribution.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library the latest copy of Unclassified Metrics by the Strategic Advisory Group HQ ISAF. (304354)

Metrics being developed for General McChrystal currently remain an internal, classified ISAF document. Should an unclassified version be produced we will, in consultation with NATO, consider placing it in the Library of the House.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many incidents of theft of British military supplies during transit from the port of debarkation in Pakistan to the final destination in Afghanistan have been reported since 2 February 2009. (304363)

Between 2 February 2009 and 5 December 2009 no incidents of theft of British military supplies transiting from the port of disembarkation in Pakistan to Afghanistan have been reported.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many insurgents have been captured by British forces in each month in 2009 to date; and how many of them (a) were subsequently released, (b) were transferred to Afghan authorities and (c) remain in British custody. (304367)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave today to the hon. Member for Leominster (Bill Wiggin).

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many contacts between British forces and the Taliban have occurred in each month of 2009. (305021)

The numbers of troops in contact events (regardless of the instigator) involving the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and insurgents in Helmand province as part of Task Force Helmand for each complete month from January 2009 for which verified data are available are shown in the following table.

Number of contacts1

2009

January

180

February

180

March

250

April

150

May

210

June

420

July

410

August

400

September

410

October

340

1Rounded to the nearest 10.

ISAF forces operating in Helmand come from a number of different nations, which often operate closely alongside each other and alongside Afghan Army and police units. Without undertaking a detailed assessment of each engagement, it is not possible to define precisely in every case whether an attack was aimed at UK forces, at our ISAF partners, or against Afghan units. Data are therefore collected on the number of incidents involving ISAF forces in Helmand without attempting to identify the nationality of the forces actually being attacked. The environment in which forces are operating makes it extremely difficult to distinguish between incidents initiated by insurgent forces and those initiated by ISAF.

These data are based on information derived from a number of sources and can be an estimate only, not least because of the difficulties in ensuring a consistent interpretation of the basis for collating statistics in a complex fast-moving multinational operational environment.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many times the readiness levels for the 500 extra troops to be sent to Afghanistan have changed since 14 October 2009; and what the levels were in each case. (305022)

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement to the House on 14 October 2009, Official Report, column 302, that UK troop numbers in Afghanistan would be increased by 500, subject to certain conditions being met, 1 Royal Welsh were placed on 14 days notice to move. 1 Royal Welsh’s readiness remained unchanged until the Prime Minister’s confirmation to the House on 30 November 2009, Official Report, column 834, that this deployment would go ahead.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to which UK location the Camp Bastion War Memorial will be returned following the cessation of hostilities. (306478)

At an appropriate time at the end of operations in Afghanistan, we will consider the future location of the Camp Bastion War Memorial.