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Afghanistan (Monthly Progress Report)

Volume 559: debated on Friday 1 March 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 24th progress report on developments in Afghanistan since November 2010.

In January, President Karzai and President Obama issued a joint statement, which included an announcement that they would support an office in Doha for the purpose of negotiations between the High Peace Council and the authorised representatives of the Taliban. Her Majesty’s Government support the opening of a Taliban office as an important step forward in the Afghan peace and reconciliation effort.

In January the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan—UNAMA— released its 2012 report on the “Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghan Custody”. Its report contained findings that are of significant concern. Her Majesty’s Government have already recognised the risk of torture or serious mistreatment at Afghan facilities. This was why we suspended transfers of UK-captured detainees to the National Directorate of Security in April 2012. This moratorium was reaffirmed by the Defence Secretary in November 2012.

The UK’s support for phase one of the Bost agricultural business park in Helmand has delivered real benefits, including regular commercial flights connecting Helmand to the rest of the country. However, the UK has decided not to fund phase two, because it did not represent value for money. The money released will be used to support infrastructure projects with higher returns.

January saw some high profile attacks in Kabul that were dealt with by the ANSF, without a call for ISAF assistance. The first, on 16 January, attempted to enter the National Directorate of Security. The second, on 20 January, saw another IED attack outside the Kabul City traffic police headquarters. While these attacks demonstrate the insurgency’s intent to carry out a continued campaign of violence in Afghanistan, the response from the ANSF to both incidents was prompt and professional. With the exception of ISAF advisors within Afghan elements, there was no request for, or involvement of, ISAF forces.

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