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12th Mechanized Brigade

Volume 554: debated on Monday 26 November 2012

13. Whether he has met the commander of 12th Mechanized Brigade following its return from Afghanistan. (129611)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence met the commander of 12th Mechanized Brigade, Brigadier Doug Chalmers, during his last visit to Afghanistan in September. On 23 October, the Secretary of State and I were pleased to meet the commander in Parliament when he briefed both Houses and all parties on the brigade’s deployment on Operation Herrick 16.

I hope that the Minister for the Armed Forces, other Ministers and all Members of the House are aware that some 20 minutes from now, there will be another opportunity to meet Brigadier Doug Chalmers and the 120 soldiers of 12th Mechanized Brigade as they march, led by the band of the Grenadier Guards, through the gates of Parliament and down to the north door of Westminster Hall. As we welcome them, I hope that hon. Members will remember not only those who have not come home with the brigade, but those who have come home with life-changing injuries and the families who support our soldiers, sailors and airmen as they go off to operations in Afghanistan.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for setting up the march-ins at Parliament. They are a valuable and tangible sign of the respect that we owe our armed forces when they go to war on our behalf. He has done a great deal to organise them. I share his sentiments about those who have not returned, the families of the bereaved and those who have come back with life-threatening illnesses. I shall be at the march-in at some stage this afternoon or this evening, and the Secretary of State hopes to be there as well.

I shall be here, but I hope that the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray) will pass on my respect and appreciation, which I would have preferred to convey in person.

I echo the Minister’s comments on the massive contribution of 12th Mechanized Brigade.

I recognise what the Secretary of State has just said about the importance of the message that we send to the Taliban and the Afghan army, but what message will be sent by the reduction in the size of the Afghan army in respect of the security of Afghanistan?

The total size of the Afghan national security forces is approaching 352,000. It is for Afghanistan to make decisions for the future. We continue to support the democratically elected Government of Afghanistan, as do the Opposition.