Dr Julian Lewis: Our strategy in Afghanistan oscillates between infantry-intensive counter-insurgency campaigning, at high cost, and advance notice that we are going to withdraw, which puts pressure on one side to compromise, but not on the other. Will my right hon. Friend at least keep his mind open to the possibility of alternative strategies, such as the strategic base and bridgehead area solution, which would allow us to secure our strategic interests at lower cost, and thus square the circle?

[The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): There will always be a strategic debate about Afghanistan. There is no oscillation about those infantry-intensive campaigns. Our troops continue to do an extraordinary job, and as the Prime Minister has said in the House and elsewhere, they are able to do it more effectively now that we have the right concentration – the right density – of forces in Helmand, where our troops are mainly deployed. The whole of NATO has the strategy of building up the Afghan national security forces to the point where they can lead and sustain their own operations throughout Afghanistan by 2014. It is consistent with that for us to say that we will not be engaged in combat operations by 2015. We are joined with 47 nations in pursuing our strategy, therefore we should not try to change it on a daily or weekly basis.]