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Daesh and Global Affiliates

Volume 701: debated on Monday 20 September 2021

3. What steps his Department is taking to help combat Daesh and its global affiliates including Islamic State Khorasan Province. (903496)

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for hosting the G7 in Chorley at the weekend, and for the warm welcome you gave to many of my colleagues from across the House in that excellent showcase of both Lancashire and the United Kingdom.

The UK plays a leadership role in the global coalition, which is working to secure the enduring defeat of Daesh in Iraq and Syria. We also remain committed to supporting counter-Daesh efforts beyond Iraq and Syria. The UK continues to work to counter Islamic State in the Khorasan province through means other than military presence in Afghanistan, working with partners in the region to diminish the threat it poses. We will continue to do what is necessary to protect the British people, our allies and partners.

May I give the Secretary of State a big warm welcome back to his place as Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence? Does he agree that it is in the interests of both Pakistan and China to ensure security and to combat radicalisation in the wider region around Khorasan and neighbouring provinces? To that effect, what discussions has he had with counterparts from both those Governments?

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind comments. I am also delighted that my whole team has remained together on the Front Bench. I cannot remember that happening in any other Department in my time in politics, but it is a good thing to have continuity. It does, however, limit our excuse to say, “We are just getting on top of our brief.”

This is why Afghanistan matters. It is often the keystone or lynchpin in that part of the world. What happens in Afghanistan can ripple throughout the region and further along, as we saw with al-Qaeda in 2001—it is really important. The Minister for the Armed Forces and I will be setting off to the region this week to discuss that with a number of neighbouring countries. Pakistan and China are significant countries in the international community that we have to engage with to make sure that Afghanistan does not go from bad to worse, and that we reverse radicalisation where it appears.

The Secretary of State is right: the biggest threat from Afghanistan is the country becoming once again the base for extremist terrorist groups. The biggest risk is that the British Government give that the same lack of attention and preparation they gave to Afghanistan in the 18 months ahead of the NATO withdrawal, so why on earth is the Prime Minister now cutting back, by more than half, on his National Security Council meetings?

The right hon. Member will be referring to a report by the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy that he has commented on previously. The report makes a number of those points, some of which I disagree with because, as I have said at the Dispatch Box, the Prime Minister often chooses that, on national security, Departments can generate their concerns and come together with national security Ministers to discuss the issues. It does not always have to be done in a formal NSC meeting; it can be done in a sub-committee, where we sometimes get across even much smaller issues.

The report also makes the point that Afghanistan is not mentioned much in the integrated review, but the right hon. Member will notice that in the defence Command Paper it is mentioned nine times—it is incredibly important. We did not neglect it in the lead-up to the fall of Afghanistan; in fact, we were investing more troops and more people in the last few weeks until we got to the point.