It is time to bring most of our troops home from Afghanistan. When Labour put our army into that country, they did not envisage a ten year plus commitment or warn us of such a long stay. When the Coalition took over they did impose a deadline of the life of this Parliament to complete the task , which was some progress.
On 30 August I called for earlier withdrawal on www.johnredwood.com. Mr Hammond, the Defence Secretary announced in the second week of September that his latest advice told him we could bring more troops home more quickly. On 17 September Mr Hammond was required to answer an urgent question in the Commons about the safety of our forces. This followed yet more deaths perpetrated by members of the Afghan forces we are meant to be helping, or by people pretending to belong to those forces.
I asked that our troops now withdraw from dangerous patrols and combat duties. Surely, after all these years of training there are enough troops and police in the Afghan forces to be able to patrol their own country? Why can’t we now confine our advice and training to classrooms and practice terrain within our bases? Why can’t all Afghans needing more advice and training from us come to the base and go through proper security checks before mixing with NATO forces?
Mr Hammond repeated the mantras that we are there to protect the UK from terrorism, and that the job is not yet finished. I was therefore pleased to learn this morning that the US has decided that the level of murders and attacks on NATO personnel by Afghan force members or by Afghans pretending to be members of the security forces is unacceptable. They have ordered that NATO troops will no longer join Afghans in mixed patrols. This should give Mr Hammond the opportunity to endorse the US decision, and to add that in the UK areas there will be no UK patrols. These can be left to Afghan forces, who may return for advice or call on Helicopter and other advanced technology support from ourselves if needed.
I am full of praise, as all MPs are, for the bravery, dedication and professionalism of our forces. They have done good work in training many Afghans in police work, and have put themselves at risk to calm the tense situation in parts of Afghanistan. I do not accept that today our continued presence in Afghanistan is crucial to our national interests and our national security. Terrorists can find other homes in the Middle East where Afghan bases are denied them. There are no great UK investments or trade interests unique to Afghanistan that need a UK military presence to protect them.
It is time for our troops to be brought home. They can hold their heads high for a job well done. They have been brave and restrained in very difficult circumstances. The latest spate of murders of NATO forces is producing a welcome rethink. Let’s take it to its sensible conclusion.