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Afghanistan (Monthly Progress Report)

Volume 557: debated on Tuesday 22 January 2013

I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the 23rd progress report on developments in Afghanistan since November 2010.

On 5 December, I hosted a meeting in London with the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Hina Rabbani Khar and the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Dr Zalmai Rassoul. We discussed the Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process and how to strengthen joint efforts to address extremism and advance regional peace and stability. We were joined by Masoom Stanekzai, Head of the Joint Secretariat to the High Peace Council. This meeting was the third in a series of trilateral discussions that took place last year.

On 19 December the Prime Minister announced that the UK would reduce force levels in Afghanistan to around 5,200 by the end of 2013. This reduction is in response to improving conditions on the ground and the growing capability of Afghan security forces. The Prime Minister had previously said that the UK will not have any troops in a combat role in Afghanistan after 2014. However, the UK will maintain a long-term partnership with Afghanistan post-2014 through trade, diplomacy and development, as well as training mentoring and funding of Afghan security forces. The Helmand provincial reconstruction team (PRT) will close as troops draw down (alongside other PRTs as requested by the Afghan Government) but we are working to ensure that the substantial progress made since 2007 on security, development, justice and governance is sustainable and continues long after our departure.

The Prime Minister visited Afghanistan from 20 to 21 December. He met British forces and civilian staff to thank them for their efforts and to receive an update on the progress of transition.

The Secretary of State for International Development visited Kabul and launched the latest phase of UK assistance to the Afghanistan Revenue Department (ARD). With just £35 million of UK aid since 2004-05, the ARD has increased Government revenue from $250 million to more than $2 billion in 2011-12. The Secretary of State for International Development also met President Karzai to underline the UK’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan. She made clear the importance of the role of women in securing a prosperous and stable future for Afghanistan.

On 11 December, the Secretary of State for International Development and FCO Minister, Baroness Warsi discussed with UK parliamentarians how best to help improve the position of women and girls in Afghanistan. At this meeting they reiterated the UK Government’s long-term support to support women and girls in Afghanistan.

On 17 December the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2082 (2012), making further steps to ensure the sanctions regime is well equipped to support the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. The new resolution includes a more flexible travel ban exemption for individuals proposed by the Afghans to participate in peace talks. This permits these individuals to undertake unlimited travel between specified locations for a maximum nine-month period. The resolution also encourages greater co-operation between the UN Sanctions Committee and the Afghan Government.

Tranche four of transition was announced by the Afghan Government on 31 December. The 12 provinces added in this tranche are mostly in the north and interior of the country. One district in Helmand (Now Zad) is included in this transition. This is a further sign of progress in Afghanistan and a reflection of the rapidly improving capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). As a result the ANSF will take the lead in providing security for nearly 90% of the Afghan population.

On 10 January 2013 the International Development Committee (IDC) published DFID’s response to their report on Afghanistan: development progress and prospects after 2014. Both the IDC report and DFID’s response can be found here:

I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (