Written statement to Parliament

Helmand provincial reconstruction team

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Foreign Secretary William Hague has updated Parliament on the Helmand provincial reconstruction team and the process of transition.

The Rt Hon William Hague

The Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

The Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) is a UK-led, multinational effort of the UK, US, Danish and, until 2012, the Estonian governments. It works with International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF) Regional Command South West, helping the Afghan Government establish improved governance and development across Helmand Province, and is one of many Provincial Reconstruction Teams which have been working in every province of Afghanistan in recent years.

As agreed by President Karzai and the international community, all PRTs across Afghanistan will close by the end of 2014 in keeping with the process of transition to an Afghan lead. This includes Helmand where HMG funded programmes have improved governance and economic conditions. The PRT has put local political representation and participation at the core of its work, helping to build trust and confidence in local government and to bolster stability. More than 40,000 Helmandis have voted in District Community Council elections since 2009. There is rising confidence in the Afghan Police with trends showing a 20% increase from 2010 in those who believe the Police act in their interest and a more functional police and justice system. The number of children in schools has more than doubled since 2007, from 54,204 to 130,292, including almost 30,000 girls. Almost 80% of the population now has access to healthcare within 10km of their home. The PRT has also overseen the construction of more than 250 kilometres of hard-top road in Helmand and the rehabilitation of around a quarter of the 300 kilometre irrigation canal system. Independent polling data reports that support for a return to government of the Taliban has fallen to just 5% of the population, and that the number of those who believe the Afghan Government does a good job has risen by 16% between 2011 and 2013.

Afghan forces now have lead responsibility for security across the entire country and are leading 92% of all operations whilst carrying out 90% of their own training. As of the end of June all of the 1,000 police patrols in central Helmand each week were conducted alone without ISAF support.

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have now reached their surge strength target of 352,000 personnel and their growing confidence and capability has enabled us to draw down our troops from 9,000 at the start of 2013 to around 5,200 by the end of the year. Our draw down has included moving the headquarters of Taskforce Helmand from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion in August 2013. UK troops continue to work in an advisory role to the ANSF, to develop their skills and build their confidence. A significant number of UK troops support ANSF operations by providing important enablers such as medical evacuation, aviation and surveillance capabilities.

In preparation for the completion of transition, the PRT has been working with Afghan and international partners to transition our work on rule of law, governance and development to Afghan control or incorporate it into national programmes led from Kabul.

It is this progress and transition of our work which will allow us to significantly reduce the size of the PRT by December 2013, at which point we envisage a small PRT political and governance and development team moving first to Camp Bastion towards the end of the year followed by the final closure of the PRT in March 2014.

The combination of the successful build up of the ANSF to a strong and increasingly capable force, alongside progress on the ground means we can be proud of what we have achieved in Afghanistan and especially in the very challenging environment of Helmand Province. We went into Afghanistan to protect our national security by helping Afghans to take control of their own. Thanks to the courage and commitment of our Armed Forces and those civilians who have worked alongside UK and ISAF forces Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for international terrorists to launch attacks on our streets. The ANSF, supported by the international community, now have the lead security for Afghanistan’s 27 million citizens and the prevention of the return of international terrorists to Afghanistan. We have also helped set the conditions for a more viable state; one that can provide basic services, improve the lives of ordinary Afghan citizens and reduce instability. The UK, together with the international community has committed to long-term support for Afghans as they shape their country after 2014. Commitments will provide $4bn a year for security until 2017 and $4bn a year for development to underpin Afghanistan’s future security and stability.

All of this, in spite of the setbacks we have overcome and the challenges that we know still lie ahead, supports national security and has created the opportunity for Afghans to build a better future.

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Published 9 September 2013