DFID – AFGHANISTAN – 28 January 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the Secretary of State [Clare Short] appreciate that those of us who have consistently supported intervention – whether in Kosovo, Sierra Leone or, more recently, in Afghanistan – are always confronted by a particular argument, which is that when the fighting is over, our forces will be turned into permanent policemen? In view of her answer earlier to her hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), about the need to have more forces in all parts of Afghanistan to maintain security, what contact is she having with her counterparts in other European countries to see if they can help in that policing, given that most of them contribute a lot less to the fighting than the United Kingdom has had to?

[Clare Short: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it has been honourable and essential for us to intervene in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. There are other failed states in the world that are causing enormous suffering to their peoples and endangering the future security of the world. They include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Sudan and, although it is much smaller, Somalia. It is part of our task in the 21st century to have the capacity to bring these conflicts to an end and to build effective modern states that will deliver order to their people and co-operation with the international community. We must, therefore, be able to engage and disengage with them, and to show that this is a sensible process.

In Sierra Leone, our forces are fewer in number but they have been engaged in building up a new Sierra Leone army that is disciplined and properly responsible to the political authority there. The training team has now become an international training team. Something very similar has to happen in Afghanistan. The United Kingdom will hand over the lead of the international force to another country – Turkey is being talked about, and Germany might also take over the lead in the future. The question of whether countries will be willing to commit more forces so that the international force can maintain a presence in all the major cities has not been resolved, and will be an urgent matter for international discussion.

As in Sierra Leone, we must start the training of the Afghan army and the Afghan police force. The Germans are taking the lead on police retraining; we have taken the lead on a scoping study. The way out – the exit strategy – is to build the Afghan army and police force, and we must get on with that immediately.]