I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the thirtieth progress report on developments in Afghanistan since November 2010.
On 13 July, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) Structure and Duties Law was passed by Parliament and signed into law by President Karzai shortly afterwards, with the Electoral Law following on 15 July. The passage of these laws means that for the first time Afghanistan’s electoral system has a legal framework for the management of elections which had been debated by Parliament.
I visited Islamabad on 17 July and encouraged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to follow up his strongly-stated intention to establish better relations with his neighbours. Sartaj Aziz, de facto Foreign Minister, used the joint press conference to announce his visit to Afghanistan. This visit took place on 21 July, preparing the way for President Karzai’s visit to Islamabad on 26 and 27 August.
The Ministry of Counter Narcotics launched the revised National Drug Control Strategy in July. The strategy continues the comprehensive approach of previous years across four strands covering; Alternative Livelihoods, Law Enforcement, Drug Demand Reduction and Information Operations.
The first meeting of the Afghan Finance Minister and his new Pakistan counterpart took place in Islamabad on 25 August, ahead of President Karzai’s visit to Pakistan later that week, focussing on strengthening bilateral economic ties. The two Ministers also agreed to convene a meeting of the Joint Economic Commission, which last met in early 2012.
Afghan reporting indicated a significant reduction in violence levels throughout July and the start of August compared to the same period in 2012. Just one high profile attack in Kabul has been reported since July, largely as a result of the ANSF launching several operations to disrupt planned attacks. Similarly, the surge in ‘insider attacks’ during Ramadan in 2012 has not been replicated in 2013, with just one ‘insider attack’ involving ISAF at Kandahar Airfield on 10 July.
On 09 August, the military headquarters of the UK’s Task Force Helmand (TFH HQ) moved from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion. This marks a major milestone in the military drawdown. The TFH HQ was established in the provincial capital in May 2006 and the military move symbolises the significantly changing UK military profile in central Helmand. This is a direct consequence of the continued transition of security responsibility to the Afghan Security Forces, who now have the lead role for Helmand’s population.
I am placing the report in the Library of the House.
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