With regard to Iraq, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 83 and 84.
On 11 December 2003, I made a statement to the House concerning the situation in Afghanistan. Progress towards re-establishing a democratic civil government in Afghanistan continues. A constitution was approved by the constitutional Loya Jirga on 4 January 2004. The constitution observes the United Nations Charter and respects the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, while establishing the centrality of Islam. It also provides for an office of president and a national assembly. Voter registration, under the auspices of the UN Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, began on 1 December in a number of provinces. Presidential and national assembly elections are expected to take place in the second half of this year.
On 14 October 2003, the United Nations Security Council agreed unanimously to authorise the extension of the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, to 20 December 2004, and to authorize the expansion of ISAF's mandate outside Kabul and its environs.
Progress has also been made on the creation of a national police force and reform of the national army. The first battalions of the army have begun military operations alongside coalition forces. The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process began on 24 October in the northern province of Kunduz, and has continued in a number of provinces, and in Kabul city.
Nevertheless, a number of serious problems continue to confront Afghanistan: the security situation continues to give cause for concern; the economy is still in dire straits; and poppy cultivation is a large and growing industry. On the political front, the ATA's writ largely does not run beyond Kabul, and there has been little progress in forcing regional governors to submit tax revenue to the central government. Socially and culturally, tribal divisions run deep.
Political, security and development issues are on the agenda for an EU ministerial Troika to Afghanistan on 17 February 2004, which I will lead. These issues will also be addressed by an international conference on Afghanistan, which will take place in Berlin, most likely at the end of March.