“The killing of 16 innocent civilians in Afghanistan yesterday was an appalling act, and I join the Minister in rightly sending our thoughts to the families of the victims of this incident. The information we have so far is that it was the act of an isolated individual outside the chain of command, and it is important that we do not draw any wider conclusions about the conduct of US or other ISAF forces, who act with unparalleled bravery and professionalism in the conduct of their mission in Afghanistan.
“We have all heard the warnings from the Taliban of reprisal attacks on coalition forces. In the light of that, may I ask the Minister what assessment the Government have made of the increased threat posed to UK armed forces and civilian personnel working in Afghanistan? Have any operational changes been made—notably on ending the use of night raids—and has additional security been put in place to protect diplomatic and civilian staff working on behalf of the UK Government?
“The influence of ISAF forces in stabilising Afghanistan depends on the trust of the Afghan people. This act has clearly put that trust, carefully built over the past 10 years, in jeopardy. Will the Minister say what discussions the Government have had with ISAF counterparts on measures that can be put in place to build trust in the light of this appalling incident? The post-2014 planning will determine the success of our mission in Afghanistan, so will he say a little more about what early assessment ISAF has made of the impact of these events on negotiations over ISAF’s presence post 2014?
“Although the tragedy is undoubtedly a blow to the ISAF mission, what about the UK’s mission and British public opinion? Will the Minister tell the country more clearly what the UK’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan will be and what type of nation he expects to leave when the draw-down takes place post 2014?
“We have always approached the issue of Afghanistan from a bipartisan standpoint, which it is important to do while we have our forces in harm’s way there. We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to raise the issue of Afghanistan at his meeting in Washington with President Obama this week, and we look forward to seeing greater details of the plans for post 2014.”
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