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Military Objectives (Helmand)

Volume 503: debated on Monday 11 January 2010

3. What recent discussions he has had with his NATO counterparts on military objectives in Helmand province; and if he will make a statement. (309566)

I regularly discuss the mission in Afghanistan with my NATO counterparts. Afghanistan is an international security assistance force mission and all the objectives in Helmand province are directly related to the objectives laid out in the NATO comprehensive political-military plan.

Is it not the case that our superb military forces have regularly achieved their military objectives, but that that has regularly proved unsustainable because of the political vacuum at the top? Is not the most important task of the London conference to frame a political settlement with which our military objectives will need to be aligned? Otherwise, we are wasting our effort in Afghanistan.

A good political arrangement, an effective Afghan Government and good governance in the local provinces are absolutely vital to progress in Helmand, and everyone in the military understands that they alone cannot make progress in this area and that they need the political structures and development to come in behind. It is true that the London conference must address those issues, as it must address reintegration where that is possible, because the insurgency has many different aspects to it. We must also address transition to effective Afghan control and have some mechanism in order to deliver that.

Will the Secretary of State explain to the House how it helps any conceivable military objectives to be propping up a discredited Karzai regime which, at the very highest level, is deeply involved in the drugs trade?

I do not think that anybody has tried to suggest that the Afghan Government are perfect or that the elections that we had recently were perfect, but my hon. Friend almost suggests that some alternative to the current Afghan Government is there and available to us. There are people in the House—a minority—who sometimes suggest that there is support for the Taliban among the Afghan people, but there is not. We must work with and improve the Government structures in Afghanistan. That is how to deliver a better Afghanistan, and thereby more security for us back here in the United Kingdom.