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UK in Afghanistan

Securing Afghanistan's Future

The United Kingdom, alongside 40 other nations, is in Afghanistan at the invitation of the democratically elected Afghan Government to help rebuild and develop a country emerging from a quarter century of conflict. We are there to support Afghanistan's security, reconstruction, good governance and counter-narcotics work. The UK's efforts are co-ordinated by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence.

The latest on Afghanistan

International Development Secretary in Afghanistan (03/03/2009)

Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development, visited Afghanistan today. During his visit he announced an increase of £50 million in the UK's aid commitment to Afghanistan over the next four years, bringing the total committed to £510 million. The extra funding will go towards large-scale infrastructure projects in Helmand province, and agriculture and rural enterprise development to provide more job opportunities for young men and women in rural areas of Afghanistan. The International Development Secretary said:

"This four-year promise to contribute £510 million to Afghanistan reaffirms our long term commitment to helping this proud country recover from 30 years of war."

  • Read a DFID press release about the increase in the UK's aid commitment to Afghanistan (DFID website; link opens in new window)

Change of Ambassador to The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (26/02/09)

Mr Mark Sedwill CMG has been appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in succession to Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles KCMG, LVO, who has been appointed as the Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr Sedwill will take up his appointment during April 2009.

Governor Mangal and General Khodaidad in London (26/02/09)

Gulab Mangal, the Governor of Helmand Province, and General Khodaidad, Afghanistan's Counter-Narcotics Minister, both visited the UK this week. Foreign Secretary and Governor Mangal, Crown Copyright

General Khodaidad gave a talk at Chatham House on 23 February entitled 'Closing in on the Enemy: Fighting Narcotics in Afghanistan'. On 24 February he and Governor Mangal both took part in a round-table discussion with British parliamentarians and a number of other prominent Afghans, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Afghanistan.

Governor Mangal also met with the Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary, Home Secretary and International Development Secretary, among others, during his visit to London. On 25 February he addressed the 'Afghanistan: Our Country, Our Future' conference at Canada House, organised by the British-Afghan Women's Society, and on 26 February he visited a mosque, a school and a community youth project in the London borough of Barnet.

Foreign Secretary in Afghanistan (19/02/09)Foreign Secretary in Helmand, Crown Copyright

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has been in Afghanistan this week - his fourth visit in the last 18 months. On 17 February the Foreign Secretary visited Helmand, where he met with Provincial Governor Gulab Mangal in Lashkar Gah to discuss a wide range of issues. He also attended meetings of local district councils in Nad-e-Ali, where discussions centred on security, planning and the day-to-day challenges facing local Afghans. Later in the day the Foreign Secretary travelled on to Kandahar Airfield, where he met with Major General Mart de Kruif, Commander of Regional Command South (RC-S).

On 18 February the Foreign Secretary visited Konar province in the east of Afghanistan to meet with the Governor, Sayed Fazhullah Wahidi. They discussed a range of issues including development, economic issues, security, and various other aspects of the role of the  Governor. The Foreign Secretary also met with the Commander of ISAF's Regional Command (East), Major General JForeign Secretary in Afghanistan, AFP/Getty Imageseffrey Schloesser, and US civilian and miltary staff at the PRT in Asadabad, as well as visiting the Torkham Gate Border Coordination Centre on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In Kabul on 18 and 19 February the Foreign Secretary met with President Hamid Karzai; Foreign Minister Dr Rangin Dadfar Spanta; Interior Minister Hanif Atmar; Dr Ludin, the Chair of the Afghan Independent Electoral Commission, and the Director of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, Mr Jelani Popal. He also held a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Spanta.

Foreign Secretary condemns Kabul attacks (12/02/09)

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has 'unreservedly condemned' the attacks which took place in Kabul on 11 February 2009. In a statement yesterday, the Foreign Secretary said:

"Today's attacks in Kabul are a deadly reminder of the threat from indiscriminate and violent extremism in Afghanistan. I join the Afghan people and the international community in condemning unreservedly all such acts of terrorism.

My thoughts are with the victims of today's attacks, and with their families. The UK will continue to support the efforts of the Afghan government in helping to improve security and to stabilise the country, working together and with international partners to counter the shared threat from terrorism."

Foreign Secretary appoints Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (09/02/09)

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has appointed Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, currently HM Ambassador to Afghanistan, as his Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sir Sherard will be returning to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London in March to take up his new appointment. His successor as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will be announced in due course.

Speaking about the appointment, the Foreign Secretary said:

"Sherard Cowper-Coles has made a major contribution to the UK effort in Afghanistan during his time as Ambassador in Kabul. I want to continue to make use of his expertise as we take forward our work with both countries which is so critical to the UK’s own strategic interests."

Defence Secretary visits Afghanistan (20/01/09)

The Defence Secretary, John Hutton, visited Afghanistan on 20 January 2009. He met UK troops at Kandahar Air Base, and then flew by helicopter to Nad-e-Ali district in Helmand, where British, Afghan, Danish and Estonian troops participated in Operation Sond Chara in December 2008 to improve security for thousands of local people.  He also held talks with the district governor. Speaking during his visit, the Defence Secretary said:

"UK troops are making a real difference in Afghanistan. They are fighting for freedom and democracy in the towns and villages of Afghanistan to prevent the export of hatred and terrorism back to the UK."

Read a Ministry of Defence press release about the Defence Secretary's visit (link opens in a new window)

Local justice improving across Helmand (30/12/08)

It used to be that people arrested in the districts of Musa Qala and Sangin could be held indefinitely without trial or justice. Now, local shuras look at the evidence for each case, and dispense local justice for minor crimes. If people are arrested for minor offences with insufficient evidence, then they’ll be released. For more serious crimes, they’ll be passed to the Government justice system.

In the district town of Gereshk too, in central Helmand, local shuras are forming to improve justice and security in the communities and help solve community disputes. Government support for Councils of Elders and other support groups serves to strengthen and build links between the Government and local communities, and oversee customary law.

The justice system in Helmand is also for the first time supporting women and children, two of the most vulnerable members of Afghan society and often the victims of injustice. The Women and Children Justice Group, established in August 2008, is made up of 14 women who are all prominent in their communities.The Justice Group creates programmes to help women and children who are the victims of crime, and to promote their rights: for example, it oversees an ongoing initiative supported by the UK PRT in Lashkar Gah to provide literacy and practical skills training for women and children in Lashkar Gah prison.

Literacy training success for Helmand police officers (24/12/2008)

On 24 December 2008 the first cohort of Afghan National Police officers to pass a new literacy training course proudly formed ranks to receive their graduation certificates at the Provincial Police Headquarters in Lashkar Gah. The ceremony was hosted by Helmand's Governor Mangal, Deputy Governor Sattar and Provincial Chief of Police Col Shirzad. ANP literacy trainee salutes officials

Governor Mangal called on all illiterate ANP officers to take the training course, and said that those receiving the certificate should be very proud that they had gained some education as well as keeping the people of Helmand secure. Upon receiving their certificates a number of the officers turned to the assembled crowd, held their certificates in the air and shouted proudly "I am now ready to help the people of Afghanistan!".

The 32 officers attended five hours of classes a week over the course of five months to improve their literacy skills. A further 110 police officers are currently taking the course, including several female officers, and in 2009 it will be rolled out to Garmsir and Gereshk districts. The literacy training was provided by Col Inzar Gul and Capt Abdul Rezak of the ANP, with support from EUPOL and MOD police mentors and funding from the UK Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).

Prime Minister Gordon Brown visits Afghanistan (13/12/2008)

Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Afghanistan on 13 December 2008. The Prime Minister visited Helmand province, where he addressed British troops at Camp Bastion, thanking them on behalf of the British people for their bravery and dedication.  He also went to the town of Musa Qala to see the progress that has been made there in the last year since it was recaptured from the Taliban.

The Prime Minister then travelled on to Kabul where he held talks with President Karzai. Speaking at a joint press conference with President Karzai afterwards, the Prime Minister said:

"I have come here to take stock of how our commanders on the ground and our services see the strategy for the future, I have come here to offer the thanks of the British people to our troops, as I have done when I have met them today, and I have come here to show solidarity with the Afghan people and to remind us all that the reason why 41 countries are in Afghanistan in support of the democracy of Afghanistan is that we will not allow the Taliban or terrorists to defy the democratic role of the Afghan people."

Find out more about the Prime Minister's December 2008 visit to Afghanistan.

Better health services for Helmand (11/12/2008)

Access to health care in Helmand province has been steadily improving over the past six months and is set to receive a further boost with the completion of several infrastructure projects in December and January. The district centre of Garmsir, in the south of Helmand province, is one town that has seen the government improve local health care services.  

Under the Taliban’s control, until May 2008, the district’s health facilities received little investment.  Since the government took control of the district six months ago it has refurbished the health clinic, brought in new medical staff and built a hospital that will open in January 2009.  According to local doctors the number of patients using the Garmsir health clinic has risen from 80 a day three months ago to 200 a day now.

Other districts in Helmand are seeing similar improvements. A new health clinic opened in Nawa on 22 November.  It is staffed by a doctor, two nurses, a community health supervisor and a pharmacist. The Bost Hospital in Lashkar Gah has received a $250,000 investment in the building and $1,000,000 of medical equipment.  It also has a new midwife training centre.  Trainee midwife Razia comments, “When the Taliban were here I could never have done this work.  But now I can and I am happy that what I am learning will let me save the lives of babies and mothers.”

The north of the province is also benefiting from better health care.  In Musa Qala the government will finish improvements to the local health clinic later this month. In Gereshk the access road to the hospital has been resurfaced so that patients can reach it more easily: patient numbers in Gereshk have risen by 50% since October.

Britain's Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles appears on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme (08/12/2008)

Britain's Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles appeared on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning to respond to a report published by the International Council on Security & Development (formerly the Senlis Council), which claims that the Taliban now have a presence in 72% of Afghanistan.

Sir Sherard said the security analysis in the report, entitled the 'Struggle For Kabul: The Taliban Advance', is "seriously flawed and it exaggerates grossly the state of the insurgency". The report's claims of 'heavy' Taliban/insurgent presence in a province actually equate to a minimum of one attack per district per week. Even in the south and east, Afghan and international forces are increasingly present, including at district level. Sir Sherard added "Every poll shows that the Taliban are deeply unpopular.  People don’t want the Taliban back...and what we need to do is build up the Afghan Government, and that’s exactly what we’re doing."

Afghan MP Shukria Barakzai, speaking during the same broadcast, also disagreed with the report's findings, saying, "This is not the some places [the Taliban] are [a] threat for security, particularly for civilians, but I completely disagree with such figures."

David Miliband writes in the Daily Mirror (02/12/2008)

An Afghan childThe Foreign Secretary writes in today's Daily Mirror about why we are in Afghanistan.

"What happens there matters to us. This is why around 50,000 troops from Britain, the US and 40 partner nations in Nato and the European Union are working with the Afghan people to build a peaceful, self-sufficient nation. We have already helped train 60,000 members of the Afghan Army. The country now has a democratic government. And three times as many children are in school including 300,000 girls who were banned from education under the Taliban".

Watch the latest BSN clips on Afghanistan (02/12/2008)

A picture by Susan Schulman -3 Afghan men (all rights reservesd)Foreign Secretary visits Afghanistan (26/11/2008)

Colder weather, some warmer developments (19/11/2008)

Helicopter in southern Afghanistan"Today we made the first steps in reinvigorating the Musa Qala District Council (or “Shura” as it is called here). Having a strong district governor is both a bonus and a hindrance to governance in Musa Qala. The bonus is that we can get clear decisions and direction from him. The downside is that it is not healthy for him to be deciding everything for Musa Qala, and in any case it’s not possible..."


President Karzai and Foreign Minister Spanta visit the UK (12/11/2008)

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, held a meeting and press conference with Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta where they discussed the future of Afghanistan and relations between the two countries.

Foreign Minister Spanta was in the UK with President Karzai for a series of meetings with UK politicians and officials.

Speaking at the press conference, David Miliband spoke of the close links between the two countries. He said:

"He is a true friend of the United Kingdom and of our friendship between our two countries, and I have explained and reaffirmed to Dr Spanta the commitment of the United Kingdom government, from Gordon Brown downwards, to be true, determined and long term friends of Afghanistan. The partnership between our two countries, and the bond between our two countries, is very deep and we are determined to take it forward."

Defence Secretary John Hutton visits Afghanistan (21/10/2008)

The Defence Secretary John Hutton flew into Afghanistan on 21 October 2008 on his first official visit to the country.  To find out more about who he saw and what he did during his two-day visit read the Ministry of Defence articles below (links open in new window).

Hutton makes historic visit to Helmand
The Defence Secretary John Hutton flew into Afghanistan on 21 October 2008, in a historic visit making him the first UK Defence Secretary to visit the district centre of Musa Qala since Afghan and international forces reclaimed the town in December last year.

Defence Secretary meets President Karzai
On the final leg of his first visit to Iraq and Afghanistan Defence Secretary John Hutton met Afghanistan's President Karzai in Kabul on 22 October 2008.

Op-Ed: "The Mission Possible in Afghanistan" (19/10/2008)

Foreign Secretary David Miliband wrote an op-ed published in The Sunday Times on 19 October 2008.  In it he explains the UK's strategy; the lessons we have learned; and how, in support of the Government of Afghanistan, and along with our international partners we can succeed in Afghanistan.  Read the article below (link opens in new window).

The Mission Possible in Afghanistan - David Miliband (The Sunday Times, 19 October 2008)  

Signs of economic growth in Helmand province (01/10/2008)

Afghanistan's Helmand province is starting to show the first signs of economic growth, thanks to international support for initiatives aimed at the region's farmers and businessmen.  Read the full story on the Department for International Development's website (opens in a new window).

Investments pay off - Farmer Abdullah Aminullah, 20, earns a living from the fruit and vegetables he grows, which he sells from his shop in the town of Lashkar Gar.

Delivering progress - DFID’s partnership with WOCCU is part of a broader £30 million package of assistance for agricultural and rural development in Helmand.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown visits Afghanistan (21/08/08)

Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Afghanistan on 21 August 2008. He met with British troops serving at Camp Bastion in Helmand province, and with President Karzai in Kabul. At a joint press conference with President Karzai, the Prime Minister said:

“We are truly resolute in our determination to support this new democracy of Afghanistan. We will not relax our efforts to support the reconstruction of Afghanistan because we understand that what happens in Afghanistan affects the rest of the world.”

'A Future from the Past' Photo Exhibition (updated 01/08/08)

Picture from photo exhibitionThis exhibition of photographs by Susan Schulman, 'A Future from the Past', was hosted at DFID on 7 July 2008 with support from the Foreign Office and Turquoise Mountain Foundation.

The photos convey the pride with which Afghans value their heritage and demonstrates that cultural traditions can also drive economic development, aid post conflict stabilisation and help overcome poverty. The communities photographed are supported by Turquoise Mountain Foundation's Programmes.

The exhibition will now go on tour with details to be confirmed. All photos reproduced with kind permission of the photographer, Susan Schulman.

Archers for the Afghans (15/07/2008)

Afghan listeners to the radio soap opera 'New Home, New Life'How about swapping the Archers and Ambridge for a barber's shop in the rural Afghan village of Bar Killi?

Three times a week almost 14 million people across Afghanistan tune into the radio soap opera 'New Home, New Life' – funded by the FCO and produced by BBC World Service Trust as part of its Afghan Education Projects (AEP).

Like its British counterparts, 'New Home, New Life' deals with issues important to Afghans, weaving them into cliff-hanger stories.  But rather than adultery, problem teenagers and pub quarrels, the Afghan soap’s storylines are more about raising awareness about HIV and Aids, gender equality, conflict resolution and personal hygiene.

Paris Conference on Afghanistan (12/06/08)

The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and representatives of the international community met on June 12 2008 in Paris to reaffirm their long-term partnership in support of the people of Afghanistan, their security, prosperity and human rights. The Paris Conference followed on from similar events held in Tokyo 2002, Berlin 2004 and London 2006.

Helmand Provincial Councillors visit the UK (13/06/2008)

A delegation of four Helmand Provincial Councillors visited the UK from 4-11 June as part of an FCO-sponsored visit.   The Chairman of the Provincial Council led the delegation accompanied by the Deputy Chairman and two Provincial Council members (you can find out more about Helmand's Provincial Council and this visit in our Visits section).

The aim of the visit was to give the delegation a fuller understanding of our democratic processes and in particular how governance is delivered at a local level.

UK Muslim Group returns from Afghanistan  (07/05/2008)

Fatim Jumabhoy at the Iman Ali Shrine in Mazar-e-Sharif

A delegation of representatives from prominent British Muslim groups has returned from a fact finding trip from Afghanistan. The visit was part of the 'Projecting British Islam' programme, intended to share experiences of UK life with Afghans and to increase mutual understanding, and dispel myths about Islamic life in Britain. Sadiq Khan MP, Muslim Delegation to Afghanistan, said "To see some of the work that we're doing, it does make you proud, whether it's development work, whether it's helping children go back to school, whether it's building hospitals, whether it's helping teachers be trained, whether it's providing security for Afghani people to go about their daily business, there's a huge amount going on.”

Fatim Kurji Jumabhoy visited Afghanistan in 2008 as part of an FCO-sponsored delegation of British Muslims. Read her thoughts on the visit and the challenges facing the country.

UN Special Representative for Afghanistan visits London (14/04/2008)

UN Special Representative Kai Eide on his visit to LondonUN Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, visited London on 14 April. He met the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and a range of senior officials.

They discussed key aspects of UN engagement, including the UN's role in ensuring better co-ordination amongst the international community to act as a more effective partner to Afghanistan. Kai Eide conducted a number of interviews whilst he was in London.

Update: Reconstruction of Musa Qala (07/04/2008)

NATO re-affirms its long term commitment to Afghanistan (14/04/2008)

NATO HQHeads of State and Government from the 26 NATO nations, partners and other representatives from major international institutions met in Bucharest, Romania on 2-4 April to discuss NATO enlargement and operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Read ISAF's strategic vision for Afghanistan.

Debate: "Is Britain's Strategy in Afghanistan realistic or hubristic?"

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the UK's Ambassador to Kabul, Afghanistan, enters into an open debate on the state of the UK effort in Afghanistan. Kicking off the debate in January's edition of Prospect magazine is Rory Stewart, head of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, an NGO working in Afghanistan.

This article is reproduced with the kind permission of Prospect magazine and first re-appeared in the January 2008 edition of Prospect Magazine.

Afghanistan Counter-Narcotics: Myths, Facts and Sound Policy

A number of myths and inaccuracies continue to circulate about the illegal drugs trade in Afghanistan. The US/UK joint fact sheet corrects some of them and clarifies how the Afghan government, supported by the international community, is addressing the situation on the ground.

"We, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom, in conjunction with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, ISAF and international partners, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, are now engaged in a comprehensive initiative to fight the production and trafficking of opium in Afghanistan. There is significant skepticism among the public and the media regarding the counternarcotics effort.  We therefore provide the following paper to correct some of the myths about the illegal drug trade in Afghanistan, and to clarify how our programs address the situation on the ground".

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The situation regarding women's rights in Afghanistan has greatly improved although there is still much to be done.


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