All 1 Debates between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Astor of Hever

Wed 7th Jul 2010


Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Astor of Hever
Wednesday 7th July 2010

(13 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement, and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to our forces fighting in the south of Afghanistan. We are told that this is a crunch year and that significant progress has to be made in Helmand and Kandahar. It is, however, difficult to know what significant progress looks like and, therefore, whether it can be achieved.

I spent last weekend in Kabul talking with a wide range of people, including MPs, academics, teachers, university students, parents, schoolchildren, craftsmen and NGO representatives. Consistently and vociferously two views were expressed: first, the fear of the relentless advance of the Taliban from the south and now in central provinces, and seemingly moving rapidly towards Kabul and the north; and, secondly, the development in the 12 months since I was last there of an astonishingly strong anti-foreign feeling. The rationale, briefly put, is that billions of dollars worth of aid has not helped infrastructure which is deteriorating by the day. I am talking about roads, schools, health and public services of any kind, while unemployment, violence and the Taliban threat are increasing day by day.

What plans do the Government have to make a serious effort to insist that all multilateral, bilateral and NGO aid is co-ordinated, accounted for and directed towards genuine capacity-building involving Afghans? Does the Minister agree that if that were achieved there would be an alternative support structure for people, particularly in rural areas, who would in turn be more likely to reject the Taliban, which ultimately would be a more productive route?

Lord Astor of Hever Portrait Lord Astor of Hever
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her question, and I of course share her admiration for the excellent work that our Armed Forces are doing. Why are we there? In two words: national security. Our forces are in Afghanistan to prevent Afghan territory from again being used by AQ as a base from which to plan attacks on the UK and our allies. Because Afghanistan is not yet capable of securing its territory without the presence of UK and international forces, al-Qaeda would return to Afghanistan, and the threat to this country would rise.

What are we trying to achieve? Afghanistan is not yet strong enough to look after its own security. The presence of NATO forces is preventing al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime from returning while we train Afghanistan's own security forces to take over that task themselves. The noble Baroness made the point that we need to do much more about redevelopment and leaving a legacy in the country. I absolutely agree. I can confirm that DfID, the FCO and the MoD are stepping up their efforts to discuss those issues together, along with our ISAF partners and the Afghans themselves.