HC Deb 19 January 2004 vol 416 cc923-4W
Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the security situation in Afghanistan and its effect on(a) the provision of humanitarian aid and (b) national reconstruction. [148100]

Mr. Gareth Thomas

Security in Afghanistan is one of the biggest challenges facing the Afghan Transitional Administration (ATA), especially in the South and East of the country where Taliban insurgents continue to encroach. The recent bombings in Kandahar, which claimed 15 lives, and assassination of a French UNHCR worker in Ghazni, are unfortunate evidence of this.

Threats to the safety of Afghan and international staff have meant that some NGOs and international organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to operate in some parts of the country. So far difficulties exist only in specific areas and organisations are doing an excellent job in working around these to continue providing assistance wherever possible. However, the overall effect on the provision of humanitarian aid and reconstruction is very serious.

The international community is heavily involved in helping the ATA deal with these problems, by helping reform its army and police force and through further deployment of joint civil-military Provincial Reconstruction Teams. The international coalition continues to counter Taliban fighters in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan and the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has recently been expanded to allow it to operate beyond Kabul. Subject to provision of troops by contributing nations this will enable it to support the UN-led programme to disarm and demobilise former combatants and facilitate other parts of the Bonn Process including elections.

Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) how many of the international secondments to Afghanistan from his Department in each of the last two years have been of women; [148111]

(2) how many international secondments of officials from his Department have been made to Afghanistan in each of the last two years; and if he will list their responsibilities. [148112]

Mr. Gareth Thomas

In 2002, DFID seconded two officials, both women, to international organisations in Afghanistan. One was seconded through UNDP to work in the ministry of Rural Reconstruction and Development and the other was seconded to the office of the EU special representative in Afghanistan as his special Assistant. In addition we employed three UK staff in our Kabul office of which one was a women.

In 2003, both female secondments remained in their posts for a period. A male official was seconded to the World Bank office in Kabul as a governance and institutional development specialist. In our Kabul office we employed five UK staff of which two were women.

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