The UK presence in Afghanistan is vital to our national security. Britain's own security is at risk if we again allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists.
Our forces are in Afghanistan to prevent Afghan territory from again being used by Al Qaeda as a base from which to plan attacks on the UK and our allies. Because Afghanistan is not yet capable of securing its own territory, without the presence of UK and international forces, AQ would return to Afghanistan and the threat to the UK would rise.
Afghanistan is not yet strong enough to look after its own security. The presence of NATO forces is preventing AQ or the Taliban regime from returning, while we train Afghanistan’s own security forces to take over that task from themselves.
We are not after a perfect Afghanistan, but a stable Afghanistan able to maintain its own security and prevent al Qaeda from returning.
• supporting an Afghan-led political process that allows security by building a lasting, inclusive political settlement;
• providing security to protect the civilian population (focusing first on the most densely populated) from the insurgency;
• rapidly developing Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) so the Afghans can take the lead responsibility for providing security ; and
• building a more effective Afghan state that secures the support of the Afghan population by meeting their basic needs.
We will not bring about a more secure Afghanistan by military means alone. Insurgencies usually end with political settlements not military victories. As the PM has said, “as for talking to the Taliban, a process of reconciliation and reintegration is taking place where Taliban who are prepared to stop fighting and accept the basic tenet of the Afghan constitution can be reintegrated back into society. That should happen. That political track, which runs alongside the training of the Afghan Army and the military surge, is vital.”
We want to transfer security responsibility for districts and provinces to Afghan control as and when they are ready. We want the Afghans take control of their own security. They are not able to do that yet, but as they are better able to do so we will see our troops reduce and our role will change dramatically. The process of handing provinces and districts over to Afghan control will take place on the basis of an assessment of the conditions on the ground.
The PM is very clear that there will not be British troops in a combat role or in significant numbers in Afghanistan in five years time. Of course there could be some troops there in a training role, but nothing like we are doing now. The bottom line is clear: we are there to finish the job, but we don't want to be in Afghanistan a day longer than necessary.
There are currently approximately 120,000 international troops drawn from 46 nations in Afghanistan.
The UK development effort is directed at improving the effectiveness of Afghan governance, supporting economic growth, developing basic services and reducing poverty.
The UK aim is to help the Government of Afghanistan tackle the insurgency and build a stable, secure country which no longer offers a foothold for international terrorism.