Romford MP reveals secret Afghan visit

ROMFORD MP Andrew Rosindell has returned from a top secret fact-finding mission to war-torn Afghanistan.

The minster and foreign affairs select committee colleagues completed a three-day tour of the country in preparation for the withdrawal of British troops in 2015.

They will present a major report on the issue to the Government in the New Year.

Part of the committee’s task is to ensure that when Britain hands back full control of Afghan to its people, that the country has a stable government, free of Taliban influence.

“Afghanistan is our biggest foreign policy issue,” Mr Rosindell said, in an exclusive interview with the Recorder. “We want to ensure the safety of the Afghan people when we pull troops out. There are also issues like immigration, drugs, and terrorism that we are looking to tackle as well.”

The party flew to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, last Saturday (October 23) before spring-boarding into Afghanistan last Monday (October 25).

They visited the notorious Helmand province, one of the most dangerous regions in the world, to meet frontline British troops, as well as the area’s governor Gulab Mangal.

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“I came back feeling immensely proud of our troops and I urge the public to get behind them,” Mr Rosindell said. “They are training Afghans to look after themselves and a safer Afghanistan means a safer Britain.”

The groups’ itinerary also included a meeting with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and a visit to a women’s centre, and police and army training centres.

Mr Rosindell revealed the biggest surprise of the visit was the friendliness of locals.

“Most ordinary people are happy with what Britain’s doing,” he said, “they don’t see us as an invading force. But as with anything it’s the minority who are causing problems.”

He added: “Afghanistan is an amazing and beautiful country.”

Mr Rosindell stayed in a secure compound and was protected day and night by personal bodyguards.

He travelled in a bullet and bomb-proof car and underwent terrorist-evasion tactics, including cutting communications with the outside world. “I wasn’t frightened, but I was certainly anxious and nervous at times,” said Mr Rosindell. “We passed the scene of a suicide bombing, which killed ten people just a few days earlier, and it made you realise no matter what security’s in place you’re still in danger.”

He added: “Nobody wants to go into a warzone, but it’s people like me who have a say in sending in troops and it’s important that if I’m prepared to do that then I’m prepared to go myself.”

The group - including MPs Richard Ottaway, Mike Gapes, Frank Roy, Sir John Stanley, Rory Stewart, Dave Watts and committee clerks, Robin James and Adele Brown - returned on Friday (October 29), via Pakistan.