Global Security: Afghanistan and Pakistan report

02 August 2009

The UK Government should re-focus its wide-ranging objectives in Afghanistan and concentrate its limited resources on one priority, namely security, says the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in its report, published today, into the global security concerns related to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Chairman of the Committee, Mike Gapes, says:

"The UK has experienced mission creep from its initial goal of supporting the US in countering international terrorism, far into the realms of counter-insurgency, counter-narcotics, protection of human rights and state building.

"It is clear that despite the commendable efforts of the FCO in adopting a broad-ranging, holistic approach to tackling narcotics in Afghanistan, success in that area depends on a range of factors which lie far beyond the control and resource of the UK alone."

The Committee recommends that the lead international role on counter-narcotics should be transferred away from the UK, and that the Afghan Government should instead be partnered at an international level by the United Nations and ISAF which are better equipped to co-ordinate international efforts.

The Committee recognises that the security situation in Afghanistan, particularly in the south where the majority of British troops are based, will remain precarious for some time to come. But the report says that there can be no question of the international community abandoning Afghanistan, and that the issue at stake must therefore be how best the UK and its allies can allocate responsibilities and share burdens so as to ensure that the country does not once again fall into the hands of those who seek to threaten the security of the UK and the West.

Chairman of the Committee, Mike Gapes, says:

"The international community needs to convey publicly that it intends to outlast the insurgency and remain in Afghanistan until the Afghan authorities are able take control of their own security. This must be the primary objective."

The Committee says that a negotiated, Afghan-led political settlement with broad popular support represents the only realistic option for long-term security and stability in Afghanistan. There can be no serious prospect of meaningful discussions until Coalition Forces and the Afghan national security forces gain, and retain, the upper hand on security across the country, including in Helmand, and are then able to negotiate from a position of strength. The Committee has concluded that for these reasons the current increased military activity is a necessary pre-requisite for any long-term political settlement.

The report goes on to say that the international effort by the UN, EU and individual countries in Afghanistan since 2001 has delivered much less than it promised and its impact has been significantly diluted by the absence of a unified vision and strategy, grounded in the realities of Afghanistan’s history, culture and politics.

Chairman of the Committee, Mike Gapes, says:

"Bearing in mind that this is the first ever NATO deployment outside of NATO’s ‘area’, this has now become a most critical and seminal moment for the future of the Alliance. The failure of some NATO allies to ensure that the burden of international effort in Afghanistan is shared equitably has placed an unacceptable strain on a handful of countries. There is a real possibility that without a more equitable distribution of responsibility and risk, NATO’s effort will be further inhibited and its reputation as a military alliance, capable of undertaking out-of-area operations, seriously damaged."

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