18 Jun 12. NEW INQUIRY: SECURING THE FUTURE OF AFGHANISTAN. The Defence Committee is announcing its latest inquiry into Afghanistan. The inquiry will examine progress towards a secure and stable Afghanistan within the wider region, including Pakistan, and the plans by the UK, NATO and other allies for a smooth transition of responsibility for security to the Afghan Government and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
NATO Forces, including UK Armed Forces, have been in Afghanistan since October 2001. In May 2006, the Government deployed UK Forces to Helmand Province in Southern Afghanistan as part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The coalition led by the USA adopted a new approach in late 2009 based on the counter-insurgency strategy recommended by General McChrystal. Following this development, UK Forces were reinforced in Helmand by troops from the USA. At the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, those nations contributing to ISAF and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan decided on a transition of security responsibility from ISAF to the ANSF to enable Afghanistan to take full responsibility for its own security. They also decided that NATO Forces would be out of combat roles by the end of 2014. In May 2012, the NATO Chicago Summit confirmed these two intentions and stated NATO would continue to support the Afghan Government in a new training, advising and assistance mission after 2014.
The Committee is particularly interested in:
* progress towards a political settlement including plans for the UK’s continued involvement in Afghanistan after 2014 and that of NATO and other allies including the long-term funding and other continued support of Afghanistan;
* progress towards a secure Afghanistan including the arrangements for the transfer of responsibility for security to the Afghan National Security Forces and how well the transfer has worked in those areas where it has already taken place;
* the effectiveness of the training of the Afghan National Security Forces and the sustainability of the Forces;
* progress in military operations in Helmand and the support for operations; and
* planning for the phased withdrawal of combat troops to the end of 2014 and the role of any Armed Forces personnel remaining after 2014, and the support for them.
The Committee expects to take oral evidence on Afghanistan during the remainder of 2012. The Committee would welcome written evidence to this inquiry which should be sent to the Clerk of the Defence Committee by Friday 13 July 2012.
26 Jun 12. Forces Families receive mixed signals on Accommodation. The MoD is sending the wrong signals to Forces families about the value it places on providing good accommodation, says the Defence Committee in its report, published on June 26th, on Forces Accommodation. Service personnel see the provision of proper housing as fundamental to the Armed Forces Covenant. Evidence given to the Committee showed that Armed Forces personnel and their families valued accommodation very highly and saw it as part of their terms and conditions of employment and as promoting unit cohesion and support for families when personnel were deployed on operations. The provision of accommodation was particularly important for those who were required to be mobile; it was the only option allowing families to live together. It is also clear that for many personnel, Service Families Accommodation is the only affordable housing solution.
Indeed, the Families Federation said in evidence, that inquiries and complaints about accommodation account for more than half of the regular communications they receive. So when the Committee considered the MoD’s decision to halt upgrade work on accommodation for the next three years, they saw it as damaging to the Covenant. Chair of the Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, says “This sent out the wrong signal to Armed Forces personnel about the importance the Government attached to