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Volume 508: debated on Tuesday 6 April 2010

5. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the coalition in achieving the UK’s foreign policy objectives in Afghanistan. (325353)

We regularly assess the progress that we are making in Afghanistan to secure our goal of an Afghanistan that can no longer be a haven for international terrorism. Key indicators include the development of the Afghan national security forces, the delivery of public services and the development of the economy. The London conference reiterated the unity and coherence in the international effort, aligning this behind a clear Afghan plan.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. Pakistan is very important to the effectiveness of the coalition in these matters. Will he tell the House what ongoing discussions there are with the Pakistan Government to encourage them in what they have been doing to bring security to the border with Afghanistan, so that there is no hiding place for terrorists and insurgents there?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. For the first time, we have complementary pressure on both sides of the Durand line. It is also significant that, for the first time since 1947, there are more Pakistani troops on the Afghan border than on the Indian border. That is a very significant development: Pakistan has taken severe losses, but it has moved its deployments. The meetings held the week before last between the Pakistani Foreign Minister and the leaders of the armed services in Washington were absolutely critical, as they renewed and reformed the US-Pakistan relationship, which is critical to Pakistan’s role in helping to achieve stability in Afghanistan.

I associate the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru with comments already made in support of service personnel on operations. The Pentagon’s top commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, has said that corruption in the Karzai Government could ruin the coalition strategy in Afghanistan, so does the Secretary of State understand why a growing number of people in the UK are asking why our young men and women are dying every day in support of a Government largely built on graft, cronyism and electoral fraud?

I am glad of the hon. Gentleman’s commitment to support the troops who are there, which I know is genuine and real. However, by saying what he has, he is recognising that they are there to ensure our own security. The Afghan Government are a partner in achieving that.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that corruption is a cancer at the heart of any society. A society trying to fight a counter-insurgency is doubly cancerous: that is why the London conference placed such emphasis on it, and why we must hold President Karzai to his commitment in his inaugural speech to clamp down on what he called the “culture of impunity” in respect of corruption.