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Volume 508: debated on Monday 29 March 2010

UK forces continue to work hand in hand with Afghan national security forces to build and maintain security in Helmand province. Progress on Operation Moshtarak grows, with insurgents being displaced from key district centres. Stabilisation activity continues apace, and increasing freedom of movement on key routes is aiding economic development. As I announced on 11 March, security responsibility for Musa Qala is transferring to US forces. This enables the redeployment of UK troops to the heavily populated areas of central Helmand, where the majority of UK troops are operating.

The population of Helmand is overwhelmingly—indeed, almost exclusively—Pashtun, but the Afghan army, with which we want ultimately to replace British forces, is overwhelmingly made up of the Tajik minority. Is that a problem?

It is one that President Karzai and his Ministers are seeking to address. Training has been stepped up quite considerably in terms of numbers, but he has to do everything, both in the police service and in the army, to get a representation of the whole country.