This is Nick Clegg’s first visit to Afghanistan since becoming Deputy Prime Minister in May.
Speaking to British troops during a visit to Helmand province today, the DPM said that the armed forces were “turning a corner” in their efforts to help Afghan society “find its own feet” and in equipping newly-trained police to take more control of their own affairs.
Mr Clegg said:
“What I’ve seen today is a complete transformation of the military effort that I first saw when I first visited two years ago…I think you are turning the corner and what you’re doing is you’re creating the space for Afghan society to find its own feet and that’s the only way we’re going to have stability. That’s the only way we’re going to have the kind of stability in Afghanistan we need for the safety of our families and our communities back home.”
The Deputy Prime Minister pointed to a number of changes in the Nad Ali district of Helmand, such as the decline in poppy production and the growing numbers of Taliban fighters laying down their arms, as evidence of the troops’ success. He said it was time for politicians to “show the same courage” and work on a political agreement that would force the Taliban to cease fighting and play a role in building a stable Afghanistan.
Mr Clegg praised the troops for doing a “phenomenal job” and reiterated the Government’s commitment to withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2015.
“I don’t think the importance of what you do can be exaggerated. I don’t think the courage which you display can be exaggerated and I don’t think the gratitude that all of us back home owe to you can be exaggerated either.”