DEFENCE – AFGHANISTAN – CAMP BASTION – 19 December 2012
Dr Julian Lewis: A few moments ago, the Secretary of State gave a very important answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth), when he confirmed, for, I think, the first time by a British Minister, that our American allies are thinking of retaining at least one strategic base in the region. Given that we face the threat of the return of al-Qaeda to Afghanistan and the destabilisation of Pakistan by the Pakistani Taliban – with their nuclear arsenal to be borne in mind – is it not extremely important that somebody has a fallback plan, based on the use of strategic bases, even if it is not us?
[The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): When any of my colleagues stands up and says that I have said something that no Minister has said before, my heart sinks, but I think on this occasion I am okay. I would not be so presumptuous as to speak for the United States, but my current understanding is that US planning very likely envisages the retention of Camp Bastion. Of course, any remaining footprint in Afghanistan – strategic base or otherwise – depends on the agreement of the Afghan Government, and as my hon. Friend knows, negotiations are under way between the United States and the Government of Afghanistan about a long-term strategic partnership agreement.]