Lords debates Afghanistan’s regional relationships

15 March 2013

Members of the Lords debated how Afghanistan’s regional relationships will impact on its long-term future yesterday (Thursday 14 March)

Baroness Warsi (Conservative), senior minister of state for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), began the debate, saying: ‘Today, I shall set out for the House the major effort that is under way, both in the region and from the international community, to work towards building a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan now and after 2014.’

She continued: ‘A stable Afghanistan is essential for the whole region. For the central Asian states that share her borders, it is fundamentally important. As International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) draws down, the central Asian states will face increased security challenges. Our commitment to Afghanistan and the region will go far beyond the end of active combat. We will continue to engage constructively with the region on its security concerns... I have highlighted three main areas for regional co-operation: first, support for a political settlement; secondly, support for regional security; and thirdly, investment to build Afghanistan into a self-sustaining and prosperous state. Clearly the international community has a role in all three of these, and the UK will continue to work closely with Afghanistan and its neighbours.’

Lord Parekh (Labour) followed, saying: ‘...we have been ignoring certain basic realties of Afghan life. Some 80 per cent of it is rural, and 87 per cent of its people earn their livelihood through agriculture-related activities. Many communities are separated by mountains and it can take days to reach them. There is an informal power structure based on ethnic, regional, tribal, clan and village loyalties. The centralised governance which the modern state presupposes and which everyone has kept recommending since the Bonn conference is simply not possible.’

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (Liberal Democrat), spoke about the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan: ‘The most difficult relationship between Afghanistan and its neighbours is that with Pakistan... A stable Afghanistan will be a prize that will reinvigorate the region and enhance development, trade and the overall economies of the entire region. We know that development is a factor in reducing conflict, and the absence of conflict is a precondition for freedom. Achieving that across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India would be a prize indeed.’

Baroness Warsi (Conservative) concluded, saying: ‘This will be a difficult road. Many of us from all sides of the House raised these concerns right at the outset and continue to say that these will not be easy decisions. We must ensure that we maintain the confidence of the Afghan people and make it clear to them that as combat troops withdraw, our relationship will enter a new phase. The way I have put it is that a chapter in the book will close but the book has not come to an end; many chapters in our relationship with Afghanistan are still to come.’

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