The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague):
I wish to inform the House that, today, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is publishing the first progress report on developments in Afghanistan, which I announced we would publish every month in my statement to the House on 27 October.
The report focuses on key developments during the month of November.
At the NATO Lisbon Summit, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)’s 48 contributing nations reaffirmed their enduring commitment to Afghanistan’s security and stability. NATO and Afghanistan also agreed the framework of a long-term partnership that looks beyond the end of ISAF’s current mission. The Summit set out the timetable for transition of lead responsibility for security from international to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
Transition to Afghan lead security responsibility will be dependent on the conditions in each district and province. It will see ISAF’s role evolve away from combat towards increased training, mentoring and support. In Lisbon, ISAF partners joined the UK in pledging additional trainers to help Afghan security forces build capacity and prepare to assume lead responsibility for security, as set out at the Summit.
Pressure on the insurgency is increasing due to ISAF’s operations. The significant uplift in troop numbers has corresponded to an increase in military operations, particularly in those areas where insurgent activity is still strong, although this has not caused a significant increase in civilian casualties.
Progress continues to be made in developing the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, both of which are on track to meet the targets for trained soldiers and police officers, agreed at the London Conference in January this year, by November 2011. Investment continues in the training of both the army and the police, particularly their leadership.
The results of September’s Parliamentary elections were declared. Whilst by no means free of irregularities or fraud, they were broadly credible, given the circumstances. Approximately 60 percent of Parliamentarians are new to the National Assembly. Female candidates have done well. Both of the two seats in Nimroz Province were won by women – the first time any Afghan woman has won a seat not reserved for a female candidate.
The Afghan Government reported progress on the commitments made at the Kabul Conference in July on security, anti-corruption, human rights and public financial management.
An important example of the region’s commitment to supporting Afghanistan was the fourth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA), held in Istanbul, Turkey on 2-3 November. The UK was central to establishing the RECCA process in 2005, and this year funded the establishment of a Centre for Regional Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul.
A long awaited Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement was finally signed by Afghanistan and Pakistan on 29 October, enabling cargo trucks to reach Pakistani ports and the border with India. This will provide a significant boost for Afghan trade.
I am placing the Report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the FCO website, and the HMG UK and Afghanistan website. (*)