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International Terrorism

Volume 701: debated on Monday 20 September 2021

8. What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on tackling international terrorism in (a) Afghanistan, (b) the middle east and (c) north Africa. (903501)

16. What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on tackling international terrorism in (a) Afghanistan, (b) the middle east and (c) north Africa. (903513)

I routinely engage at all levels, both nationally and internationally, in order to tackle the threat of terrorism across the middle east, north Africa, and the wider region. We continue to work with allies and regional partners to promote a safe and secure Afghanistan and to prevent the terrorist groups from gaining any foothold in the country in the future.

What assessment has the Ministry of Defence made, in collaboration with the security and intelligence services, of the impacts of the cuts to UK bilateral aid to Iraq and Afghanistan on the increasing potential for international terrorism?

The reduction in conflict, stability and security funding, which is effectively what the hon. Gentleman is referring to, is partly because if it were to continue it could end up in the hands of the Taliban. Given that the fall of Afghanistan was happening, I do not think that that would have been a wise thing for anyone to do. Secondly, he should not rule out the fact that counter-terrorism funding both for here and abroad has increased significantly since 2015, with well over 30% of funding both to civilians such as the police and the intelligence services and to special forces and the armed forces. The direction of travel is increasing not decreasing and the capability that we are procuring, including the drones that we have recently signed up to, will give us extra capability that we did not have all those years ago in 2001.

Can the Secretary of State indicate when an update will be given to the House on the terror threat that the UK faces following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the attendant heightened potential for terrorism being harboured there?

The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre sets the threat levels for this country, and it does so independently of Ministers. When those levels are changed, it will make a statement and the House will be informed. As far as a bulletin or update to the House is concerned, the hon. Lady is obviously free either to apply for an Adjournment debate or to table written questions, and we will be happy to ensure that we respond. On top of that, we have periodical updates on Afghanistan and the counter-Daesh strategy, and we will continue to provide them from time to time.

Given that long-term nation building from the ground up is not a feasible option in the future, and given that terrorist attacks could happen again, will the Secretary of State institute a serious review of counter-terrorism strategy, possibly based on pre-positioned forces in regional bases, to follow an active containment strategy?

My right hon. Friend highlights an important point: when there is no partnership on the ground, how do we deal with imminent threats to the United Kingdom? I cannot speak for the whole Government on a review of the counter-terrorism strategy, first of all, because Contest, in its many iterations starting under the last Labour Government, is probably a world-leading counter-terrorism strategy. It is periodically refreshed, which will always be done in time to meet the changing situation. What I can tell my right hon. Friend is that, even before the decline in Afghanistan, I had instigated work on how we deal with changes to the environments in which we fight terrorism and on what capabilities we will need in future.

The United Kingdom supports the French forces and Operation Barkhane in Mali with a squadron of Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. At the same time, we also have some 300 British forces deployed on the UN multi-dimensional integrated stabilisation mission in Mali, which is one of the most dangerous UN deployments, to help nation building and peacekeeping. We also talk about the threat through intelligence channels, and we are both concerned about the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which is now appearing in many parts of west Africa.