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Volume 508: debated on Tuesday 6 April 2010

16. What assessment he has made of the likely outcome of the forthcoming shura to be held by President Karzai of Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. (325365)

Indeed; I am grateful for the help from the Opposition Front Bench. The forthcoming peace jirga will be the Government of Afghanistan’s opportunity to secure the support of the Afghan people for their reintegration and reconciliation proposals. To deliver this support, we encourage the Government of Afghanistan to make this event as inclusive as possible.

Afghanistan needs a politics of national unity to defeat the Taliban and corruption, and to create conditions that will allow British troops to leave. What is my right hon. Friend doing to try and ensure that when the Loya Jirga is held later this month, it ends up creating a more inclusive politics for Afghanistan?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The greatest resource for international forces and for the Afghan Government is that less than 10 per cent. of the Afghan people want the Taliban back. There is widespread hatred for the brutality that they represent. However, a political settlement for Afghanistan is something that this Government have been advancing for some time, saying clearly that the purpose of military and civilian effort is to create the conditions for a political settlement. The peace jirga is the first chance to take that forward. It is not about negotiations, but about preparing the ground. We want it to be as wide as possible—1,200 to 1,500 participants have been mentioned. I welcome that. It is also important to say that all the tribes of Afghanistan must have a say in that future political settlement. It is not a matter of including former insurgents, only to find that northerners then leave the political settlement. It is important that all the ethnic tribes are balanced in a political settlement that can endure.