PRIME MINISTER – AFGHANISTAN – 2 July 2013
Dr Julian Lewis: If western work in Afghanistan is not to unravel after next year, one of two things must happen. Either the Taliban must be persuaded that they made a terrible mistake in giving house room to al-Qaeda, or the Americans must retain one or more strategic bases to dissuade them from offering it house room in the future. Does the Prime Minister know whether either of those things has happened or will happen?
[The Prime Minister: I may be a little more optimistic than my hon. Friend, but I think the most likely outcome is that both those things will happen. One of the reasons why I think a peace process can get under way is the fact that, in recent statements, the Taliban have effectively said that they do not want Afghanistan to be used to harm other countries. I believe that the decoupling of the Taliban from al-Qaeda is well under way, and I think that that is positive.
I also do not believe that America, NATO, ISAF or any of us are walking away from Afghanistan, and I think that that is positive as well. As I have said, we will maintain the officer training academy and our funding of the Afghanistan national security forces, and I think it likely that the Americans will maintain a presence in the country – to be negotiated, of course, with the Afghan Government.
Obviously we want to see a peace process succeed, but, as we have always had to explain, our security response of training the Afghan national army and police force is the key part of making sure that the country will not fall back under Taliban or al-Qaeda control, and, having observed the effectiveness of those forces, I think we can be confident that they are capable of ensuring that that happens.]