Statement on Afghanistan

The Foreign Secretary announced the creation of a UN sponsored Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund for Afghanistan. The idea is to give those who are sick of the fighting, and not part of Al-Qaeda, the chance to become part of the new Afghanistan. They will create a fund to pay for members of the Taliban to come over to President Karzaiā€™s Government forces. It is hoped that this will begin to reconcile the Pashtun people, some of whom are traditionally allied with the Taliban, with the rest of Afghan society. Our brave servicemen are winning military battles, but we also need to win the hearts and minds battle.

This is worthwhile because reconciliation has long been identified as key step towards peace in Afghanistan, something I highlighted as long ago as October 2008 in a debate I initiated in Parliament.

I said: “One long-standing problem has been that not enough Afghan Pashtun tribal leaders are involved in the process of government in Afghanistan. I welcome that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had a breakfast meeting in Mecca with the Afghan Government and with Pashtun leaders, some of whom are aligned with Taliban officials…Do the Government feel that there is some prospect of sitting down with Pashtun tribal leaders who may be aligned with the Taliban and reaching the sort of political compromise that generals have been talking about recently?”

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