asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether the current concentration of British troops in Helmand province has diverted attention from reconstruction and development throughout the country; and, if so, how this can be rectified under the revised strategy. [HL2413]
The current concentration of British troops in Helmand province has not diverted DfID's attention from reconstruction and development throughout Afghanistan. Afghanistan is DfID's fifth largest programme and the UK is Afghanistan's second largest bilateral donor, with a planned spend of £102 million in 2006-07. Over 70 per cent of our assistance goes directly to the Government of Afghanistan in support of their own priorities. This includes support for the Government's national priority programmes, which operate throughout the country. For example, the national solidarity programme (NSP) operates in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. It has helped to establish over 16,000 community development councils to identify local needs and has funded over 22,000 projects in areas including agriculture, education, health, irrigation and transport.
Helmand is a priority for the Governments of both Afghanistan and the UK. We have committed up to £20 million a year to support development in the province. This will help to build the capacity of Afghan institutions and promote economic and social development. The major obstacle to reconstruction and development in Helmand is the lack of security. The presence of the British military, in support of the Afghanistan national security forces, will help to overcome that obstacle and establish a better environment for the effective implementation of the Government of Afghanistan's national priority programmes.