DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – AFGHANISTAN – 28 April 2008

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the Secretary of State accept that, despite the picture of stability that he is painting, the burden on our 7,000 service personnel in Afghanistan is very great? Given that the Prime Minister is no longer able to achieve his ambition of scaling down our 4,000 troops in Iraq, does he have any other ideas about how our 7,000 troops in Afghanistan might be reinforced and the burden on them lessened?

[The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that when NATO gathered in Riga a year ago, there were 32,000 ISAF troops in Afghanistan; when it gathered in Bucharest recently, there were 47,000 such troops there and, in addition, a number of countries – including France and, indeed, the United States of America – made further commitments. Currently, 2,200 American troops are deploying to southern Afghanistan, which will significantly increase our ability to deliver what we are doing in that part of the country. Increasingly, other countries are either taking on a greater share of the burden or increasing their already great share of the burden that they take on.]