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Afghan National Army

Volume 503: debated on Monday 11 January 2010

15. What the UK’s financial commitment to the Afghan national army is in (a) 2009-10 and (b) 2010-11; and if he will make a statement. (309579)

The UK does not provide direct financial support to the Afghan national army but does deliver assistance in other forms, including the provision of training through the “NATO Training Mission—Afghanistan”, in Kabul, and through a number of operational mentoring and liaison teams in Helmand province.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, but does he not agree that unless an army is well paid, it does not get good soldiers? It is clearly crucial that the Government of Afghanistan have a good army, and if we do not help to fund that army, either now or in the immediate future, who is going to be responsible for that if that Government cannot provide the money?

I take it that that was another uncosted spending pledge from the Conservatives. I should say directly to the hon. Gentleman that there has been an improvement in pay in the Afghan national army and the issue remains under review, but that is not just a responsibility for this country; it is a responsibility for the whole of the international coalition and the Afghan Government.

Amazingly, a significant percentage of the officers in the Afghan national army are illiterate. How much is to be spent on the education of that army in the forthcoming period?

My hon. Friend’s comment underlines the lack of development in Afghanistan—that is a reality that we face. On education, the key priority that we have set out is to work alongside the Afghan forces to train, mentor and develop them. In addition, this country is committed to providing £500 million in development aid assistance over the coming four years to try to improve these conditions and the lot of the people in Afghanistan.