Senior Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi made her second visit to Afghanistan between 4-6 March. During her visit, the Minister held discussions with members of the Afghan government and wider Afghan authorities, leading parliamentarians and representatives of civil society including youth and women’s leaders.
The Minister had the opportunity to see progress at first hand in a visit to Lashkar Gah, where she met Afghan police trainers, and to look at how the UK and its international partners are increasingly seeking to support the development of Afghan capacity in areas ranging from security to service delivery as transition continues. Her wide-ranging talks in Kabul and Helmand also focused on political reconciliation and preparations for the 2014 elections.
The Minister also met our forces serving in Helmand and spoke with US Commander General Miller.
In all her meetings, the Minister underlined the UK’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan after the final UK combat troops leave at the end of next year, including in maintaining the UK’s current development assistance of £178 million per year until at least 2017. She also stressed the importance of consolidating progress made over the last ten years including the rights of women.
Speaking after her visit, the Minister said:
I’ve been encouraged by the steady progress I’ve seen since my visit to Afghanistan in October last year. In all my discussions it was heartening to hear a more positive tone in conversation about Afghanistan’s future as Afghanistan increasingly takes the lead on issues including security and development. Our work will go on in assisting and supporting the Afghan people as they continue to build their country, develop their economy and move towards credible and inclusive elections next year. I’ve also been inspired in speaking to young Afghans who are determined to play their part in Afghanistan’s future. The departure of UK combat troops at the end of 2014 will be the start of a new chapter in UK-Afghan relationship.
Speaking ahead of International Women’s Day, the Minister noted:
Many women in Afghanistan face an extremely difficult situation given the challenges of deeply conservative local culture in many parts of the country, but I’ve been impressed with the determination I’ve encountered to protect women’s rights and ensure gains made in the last ten years are not lost. There are more and more demands for girls to be educated and to play their full role in developing a stable and prosperous Afghanistan as I witnessed when I met brave and inspirational policewomen in Lashkar Gah”.
The Minister reiterated the UK Government’s commitment through the trilateral process to encourage progress on a political settlement and the wider strategic partnership between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Along with credible and inclusive elections in 2014, this would be important for the future stability of Afghanistan and the region.
Read about Foreign Office work: Establishing stability in Afghanistan
The British Embassy in Afghanistan website