In its report, published today, the Defence Committee expresses the hope that the new President of Afghanistan will move swiftly to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement and Status of Forces Agreement in order to confirm the legal basis on which international forces will operate in Afghanistan post-2014.
If a new ISAF Status of Forces Agreement is signed, the Committee highlights that, in addition to the UK military training mission, other UK Government Departments will also be conducting activities in Afghanistan. The Committee notes that the ability of these agencies to operate will be determined by what is likely to be an uneven security situation and calls for assurance that a cross government response to ensure a Comprehensive Approach to the work of all UK Government Departments and agencies in Afghanistan will expressly be maintained.
The Committee says it is also imperative that the UK Government carries out a thorough analysis of the lessons learned during the intervention in Afghanistan.
This particular Inquiry has examined the progress of withdrawal of UK forces and equipment, the expected assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces after 2014, the impact on Afghanistan of the new Government in Pakistan, and UK relations with Afghanistan and Pakistan after 2014.
The Committee recommends that the Government conduct a comprehensive review, encompassing not just the military operation, but the wider intervention by the UK as part of the ISAF and United Nations missions in Afghanistan - looking at the two stages of our involvement separately, the pre-2006 intervention and the deployment to Helmand post 2006. The report calls for a full historical account to be written in the long term.
Speaking on behalf of the Committee, Dai Havard MP says
"After over twelve years of Operations in Afghanistan, the British people quite rightly expect a thorough analysis. We need to examine whether the national decision-making, military command and governance arrangements for the campaign were appropriate, and what we need for future engagements."
The insurgency remains a strong and persistent threat to the future security and stability of Afghanistan. Despite the numerical advantage and increasing capability of the ANSF, insurgent attacks have continued to target high profile targets. The Committee took evidence from the Secretary of State for Defence and has noted his confidence that Afghanistan will not descend into civil war following the withdrawal of the majority of international forces from the country.
The potential for post election conflict in Afghanistan the Committee says will be heavily influenced by the extent to which the unsuccessful candidates accept the results and the extent to which those who are successful are able to develop consent for Afghan security forces to secure the country to allow it to develop.
The Committee believes that a lasting peace in Afghanistan can only be achieved through a process of reconciliation with the Taliban. The report encourages the new Government of Afghanistan to expedite a process of engagement as a matter of priority.
Recognising the service of UK armed Forces, Dai Havard MP, says,
"The conflict in Afghanistan has been a long and arduous one. UK Armed Forces have fought with great courage and made extraordinary sacrifices in order to create and sustain a safer and more stable Afghanistan. We record, in this report, our gratitude to the many men and women who have served in Afghanistan since 2001 and the families who have given them such resolute support. We pay tribute in particular to all those who have lost their lives, and the many more who have sustained life-changing injuries.
The political process however is not complete and UK involvement will change but not end in December this year. Uncertainty remains about how best to engage in a secure way for the future and that is why a whole government, Comprehensive Approach, is important to deal with all eventualities."
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