PRIME MINISTER – BRIDGEHEAD AREA IN AFGHANISTAN – 6 July 2011
Dr Julian Lewis: If we are to achieve a political settlement involving the Taliban, there must be an incentive for the Taliban to negotiate. At the moment, however, there is no such incentive. Has the Prime Minister received any indication from our American allies that they are contemplating the preservation of a long-term strategic base and bridgehead area in the region that would demonstrate to the Taliban, in any future Government in which they participate, that the return of al-Qaeda or other international terrorist organisations would not be tolerated and could easily be punished?
[The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a good point. However, I think that there is an incentive to join a political process, because Taliban mid and high-level leaders are being killed in ever larger numbers. Actually, we are now seeing, in some cases, lowering morale among the Taliban within Afghanistan because their “brave” mid and high-level leaders are cowering over the border in Pakistan. That is what has happened, and we need to keep up that pressure. Of course we need to work with the Afghans so that they have the long-term capability to go on dealing with the insurgency, if it continues – even in a minor way – along the lines that he suggests. However, no one should think that the Taliban are not under pressure; they are under huge pressure because of the surge and the effectiveness of the operations in which we are also engaged.]