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UK Military Personnel (Afghanistan)

Volume 590: debated on Monday 12 January 2015

Let me start by passing on our congratulations to the hon. Gentleman on his well-deserved knighthood. Our commitment to the current NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, the UK element of which is known as Operation Toral, amounts to about 470 UK military personnel. They work in support of the democratically elected Afghan Government, who have just announced their new Cabinet.

I thank the Minister for his kind remarks. The benefits that our service personnel, as well as our diplomats and development workers, have brought to Afghanistan at such cost over the past 13 years could be swept away in part or all of that country, as has happened in Iraq, if the new Resolute Support mission to support the Afghan national security forces does not provide the support that is necessary. Can he reassure the House that Resolute Support will be maintained for as long as is necessary to guarantee the gains that have been made over the past decade?

Along with our NATO allies in Resolute Support, we are committed to the long-term security of Afghanistan. On the UK contribution, we continue to lead mentoring at the Afghan national army officer academy and to provide mentors in the Afghan security institutions. We are also taking the lead on the Kabul security force, which is a key enabler for managing and assuring the protection of UK and NATO personnel in Kabul. The hon. Gentleman mentioned sacrifice. We lost 453 personnel who died in the line of duty in Afghanistan. They made a great sacrifice to give the people of Afghanistan a future and we will never forget them.

Will the Minister outline for the House what role he sees for the Army Reserve in contributing to Operation Resolute Support?

As a former reservist, I am delighted to do so. Army reservists have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they will continue to serve in Operation Toral. I believe that some elements of 3PWRR—a regiment close to the heart of the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier)—will deploy to Afghanistan shortly as part of the security force. Reservists will be an important and integral part of our commitment under Operation Toral.