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MP Bob Stewart visits Afghanistan

17:07 26 January 2011

Bob Stewart with Brigadier James Chiswell and Colonel Andrew Jackson of the Royal Irish Regiment in Helmand province.

Bob Stewart with Brigadier James Chiswell and Colonel Andrew Jackson of the Royal Irish Regiment in Helmand province.

Archant

A former United Nations commander turned politician has returned to the frontline on a mission to Afghanistan.

Beckenham MP Bob Stewart met the country’s leader, President Karzai, and toured perilous zones in Helmand Province including LashkarGah and the forward operating base at Shawqat in Nad ‘Ali district.

Mr Stewart, a colonel who served in Northern Ireland and led the British forces in Bosnia in the 1990s, visited the war zone as part of the House of Commons select committee on defence.

Mr Stewart said: “The challenge facing our troops remains hugely difficult and I pay tribute to their huge bravery on the frontlines.

“I have growing confidence in their ability to achieve success in their mission — to ensure that Afghanistan can never be used as a launch pad for international terrorism again.”

Earning the nickname ‘Bosnia Bob’ after the Balkan conflict, Mr Stewart met senior Afghan politicians and civilians during his tour this month and discussed support for the UK’s continuing commitment to Afghanistan.

He also met Brigadier James Chiswell, Commander of task force Helmand who served under him when Mr Stewart was commander in Bosnia and Deputy Commander Colonel Andrew Jackson of the Royal Irish Regiment.

After explaining changes to the structure and provision of gear to the forces in the area, the officers convinced the MP that their troops were as safe as they could be in the war torn country.

Mr Stewart added: “I am satisfied that our soldiers, operating under great danger in Helmand, now have the best possible equipment to protect them in their missions.”

Mr Stewart has previously stressed the importance of a structured exit strategy from the Afghanistan conflict. In November he blasted the Mayor fo London Boris Johnson for comparing cuts in housing benefits in the capital to the social cleansing that happened in Kosovo.

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