New Forest East



Dr Julian Lewis: What assessment has he [the Prime Minister] made of the effectiveness of NATO's military strategy in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister: Afghanistan is my top priority. That is why we have set up the National Security Council and why it met on the first full day of the new Government. In terms of the military strategy, we are six months into the troop surge ordered by President Obama. That surge is to provide a proper counter-insurgency campaign, protecting the people while tackling the insurgents. We back that strategy, and we must give it time to work. There are some signs of progress, such as markets opening up again and better district governance. As I said in the debate on the Queen's Speech, we have to support that military strategy with a political surge, of which the peace jirga being launched in Kabul today is an example. I spoke to President Karzai about this yesterday, and stressed to him the importance of working towards a political solution in which everyone in Afghanistan feels that the Government of Afghanistan are a Government for them.

Dr Lewis: Is my right hon. Friend aware of the concept of a sovereign base bridgehead area, which could meet our needs in Afghanistan for a fraction of the cost in life, limb and expenditure? Would he consider taking a briefing on this subject, if possible in the presence of the Service Chiefs of Staff?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for asking that question; I know that he has great expertise in this area. I have understood the idea of a bridgehead, but while it is worth examining, there are difficulties with it. The current strategy of counter-insurgency is about trying to protect the public in Afghanistan from the insurgency and enlarge the area of that country in which normal life can continue. What is in our national interest – that is what we should focus on – is an Afghanistan stable and secure enough for us to bring our troops home. That is what we want to achieve. I will listen to my hon. Friend's ideas, but we have to give the current strategy time to work.