Dr Julian Lewis: From his time as Defence Secretary, the Foreign Secretary will recall the argument that the hard-won gains in places such as Afghanistan could easily be reversed unless a strategic base or bridgehead area was established for the medium to long term in the region. Given what has happened in Iraq, where equally optimistic predictions about the long-term resilience of Iraqi forces were made, what would we expect to see in terms of a long or medium-term American presence if the status of forces agreement is eventually signed?
[The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Philip Hammond): The US intention, subject to the bilateral security agreement being signed, is to have a continuing presence of US forces on the ground in Afghanistan, both for counter-terrorism activity and for the protection of US interests, but clearly I cannot speak for the US Government beyond the plans that they have already announced.
I just want to pick up my hon. Friend’s analogy, which many other people have sought to draw, between the Iraqi security forces and the Afghan national security forces. Afghanistan is a country of multiple ethnicity; yet we have not seen the kind of ethnic tensions in the Afghan national security forces that have clearly been present in the Iraqi security forces, and which are widely believed by western observers to have been instrumental in the failure of those forces to halt the ISIL advance earlier this year.]