HC Deb 15 December 2003 vol 415 cc1315-6
15. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)

What progress has been made on increasing security in Afghanistan. [143782]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram)

We have been working with the international community to extend the international security assistance force beyond Kabul and to widen the provincial reconstruction team programme. Our own team in Mazar-e-Sharif has been actively supporting United Nations and Afghan transitional authority initiatives to improve security, such as negotiating ceasefires between rival militia forces and placing their heavy weaponry under the control of the Afghan national army. Our contribution to ISAF continues to promote a safe and secure environment in Kabul. Finally, we remain active in our support for security sector reform.

Joan Ruddock

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the activities of the British, especially in connection with the programme that he has just outlined. However, does he accept that, overall, there is a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, with the targeted killings of 15 aid workers and attacks on the United Nations, which have rendered one third of that country out of bounds to both? In that context, what assistance in security is being given to the electoral registration office of the United Nations, which has to accomplish in just eight months an electoral registration process that took it eight years to achieve in Cambodia?

Mr. Ingram

I do not pretend that the security situation in Afghanistan is ideal, but we are making progress. That is why we have put in place the provincial reconstruction teams, why the UK has been so heavily engaged, and why we have encouraged the maturation of that process and encouraged other countries to take such initiatives. We must move beyond Kabul and try to extend the areas of relative calm, recognising at all times that there are clear threats out there. My hon. Friend asked about protection for a specific programme. I do not have that information to hand, but I will obtain it and write to her. If it is an area where we have direct responsibility, I am sure that we are doing all we can. It is crucial to the democratic process, and it is where the future of Afghanistan lies, as is clear to anyone who has listened to President Karzai in the past few days talking about the future of his country. We must make sure that that programme and that process move forward unfettered, as far as that can be achieved. I will get more details about that for my hon. Friend and write to her.

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