New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis:
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend, and indeed with the Deputy Prime Minister, that counter-insurgency campaigns always end in a political settlement. Will he accept, however, that those political settlements can vary from even-handed ones to ones that are little different from a negotiated surrender by one side? By setting a definite date for combat disengagement, he is helpfully putting pressure on the Afghan Government, but no pressure at all on the Taliban. For that reason, will he bear in mind an alternative – namely, the creation of a Sovereign Base Bridgehead Area, which would ensure that pressure could be put on both sides so that a compromise might actually be reached?

[The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): I am not going to redefine our objectives. My hon. Friend will understand what the Prime Minister and I, and other Ministers, have said about 2015. Yes, it is true that our announcement puts pressure on the Government of Afghanistan to live up to the commitments that they have made, and it puts pressure on all those involved to ensure that the Afghan national security forces are expanded and trained according to the schedule that has been set out. It also recognises that, by then, we will have been in Helmand for nine years. It is important in any such operation that we achieve our objectives in that time-scale. I understand the point that my hon. Friend is making, but I do not want to define our objectives for 2015 any more tightly.]