Adam Ingram, Minster for the Armed Forces, has announced that British preparations for a possible deployment to Afghanistan in 2006 are to begin.
Rt Hon Adam Ingram MP
In a Written Ministerial Statement to the House of Commons on 14 November 2005, Mr Ingram said:
"As previously announced by the Prime Minister (30 June 2004), the United Kingdom is committed to deploy the Headquarters Group of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps to lead the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from May 2006 to February 2007. In addition, the Secretary of State for Defence has previously informed the House (7 July 2005) of preliminary plans to support the expansion of ISAF by establishing a British-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in the province of Helmand, in Southern Afghanistan. The aim of both would be to help restore Afghanistan as a secure and stable state, and prevent the country again becoming a haven for global terrorists.
"The ISAF is led by NATO, which is currently planning the expansion of the ISAF into the South and East of Afghanistan. Once these plans mature, individual Allies, including the United Kingdom, will be able to take final decisions on deployment and on the nature of the capabilities that may be required.
"In advance of this, however, it is sensible to begin British preparations for a potential deployment. These are necessarily based upon national planning assumptions which may need to be adapted in the light of NATO's conclusions and the final positions taken by individual Allies and Partners, including the UK.
"In the first instance, the tempo of work to prepare the ground in Helmand for a possible British deployment is being increased. These activities are initially likely to involve some 250 troops.
"Preparations are also underway in the United Kingdom. Some units, predominantly drawn from 16 Air Assault Brigade and the Joint Helicopter Command, will shortly commence collective training on a contingency basis. Similarly, the procurement of certain equipment enhancements that may be needed for a deployment of this nature is underway.
"These necessary measures are prudent military preparations for a possible future deployment. They do not mean that these units or capabilities will be committed to Southern Afghanistan in 2006. No final decisions have yet been made. Should the United Kingdom decide to commit additional forces to the ISAF in 2006, a full statement will then be made to the House as soon as possible."