I went to Afghanistan last month, before the tragic attack took place when 6 soldiers lost their lives.
My ministerial life takes me to many different and fascinating places but none more so than Afghanistan. At the end of February I made my second visit to meet our troops and their commanders and to ensure they had the equipment they need to do their difficult and dangerous work, writes Peter Luff.

Flying into Camp Bastion is quite an experience in itself. This vast base, its American and Afghan neighbours Camp Leatherneck and Camp Shorobak, and their supporting airport are home to thousands of troops and support staff. While I was there I saw the work being done to support armoured vehicles and a demonstration of the work of the counter-IED teams, including their remarkable “sniffer” dogs.

Then I flew down to Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand Province, a short helicopter ride from Bastion. There I was told of the vastly improved security situation and the return to normality of large parts of Helmand.

I flew on to a patrol base and saw something of the conditions that our troops live under. I was reassured to hear resounding praise for the equipment they use, the protective kit they wear and even the food they eat. Equally, I was pleased to report to them some of the further enhancements soon to be on the way.

From the patrol base I returned to Bastion and on to Kabul. Here, on my second day, among others I met the Commander of the ISAF forces, his British deputy, our ambassador to Afghanistan and the deputy minister of defence in the Afghan government.

The consistent message of my visit is that real progress is being made, the insurgency is on the defensive and that the quality and effectiveness of the Afghan army and police are increasing rapidly. The stabilisation of Afghanistan, which does seem to be within that troubled country’s grasp, is a great prize. It would enable Afghanistan to fulfill its economic potential and live in peace, but for us here in Worcestershire and the rest of the country it would also mean that Al Qaida is denied a safe haven to launch their evil attacks on the rest of the world.


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