Arriving late on Monday (26 August 2013) evening, the Chief Secretary spent the night at main UK base Camp Bastion, before visiting one of the few remaining small patrol bases still operated by British troops to talk with those serving there about the progress made as they train and advise Afghan forces.
The number of British bases has reduced over time as the Afghan National Security Forces have taken the lead for security across Helmand Province.
At the height of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan there were 137 UK forces operating bases in 2010, which based on current planning, will reduce to four or five by October 2013 as they either close or are handed over to Afghan forces.
The growing capability and increasing independence of Afghan forces has allowed British troops to move from a combat role to one of mentoring and training, and Afghan security forces have now assumed lead responsibility for security throughout the country.
Danny Alexander said:
I was impressed to see the work that British troops are doing to help Afghan forces to operate by themselves and take on the security challenges facing the Afghan government.
I have nothing but admiration for the professionalism with which our Armed Forces take on this challenge.
My time here has shown once again this is a hugely professional Armed Forces that we are proud to have as a country. The job that’s being done here in Afghanistan is first rate and I’ve been hugely impressed by what I’ve seen.
The minister visited Patrol Base Attal in Lashkar Gah District, where UK troops from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment operate. At Camp Bastion, Danny Alexander was able to meet senior officers and troops from the Afghan National Army and the soldiers from 4th Battalion the Rifles, who are training and advising the Afghan brigade.
In the Helmand capital Lashkar Gah, the Chief Secretary met with the Helmand Provincial Governor to discuss a wide range of issues including the current security situation in Northern Helmand. The Provincial Governor spoke about the challenges facing women in law enforcement and the gradual improvement to women’s rights and rates of education.
Whilst in Afghanistan Danny Alexander announced that the UK is pledging £4.5 million to increase women’s participation in democracy in Afghanistan.
The new funding will help more than 50 female MPs and 100 female provincial councillors with training in essential political skills, such as developing strategies, negotiating, campaigning, fundraising, leadership and decision making. The funding will also encourage women to vote and more candidates to take part in the 2014 Presidential and Provincial elections and the 2015 Parliamentary elections.
Speaking about the fund the Chief Secretary said:
To truly rebuild Afghanistan, we have to get women voting and standing for election. Women are the key to building a democratic and safe country. They are the future of Afghanistan. Having taken Afghanistan out of the hands of terrorists, we are now working hard to return it to the people. This extra funding will help women lead the way.