Andy pays tribute to troops and questions Defence Secretary on Afghanistan withdrawal

Andy Sawford (Corby) (Lab/Co-op):
This year, Corby lost one of its sons, Grenadier Guard James Ashworth, who died in a grenade attack in Helmand. In paying tribute to James and all the soldiers from Corby who served in the past and will serve in the future in Afghanistan, may I ask the Secretary of State to say what assessment he has made of the increased risks to the 5,500 servicemen and women who will be in Helmand in 2014?

Mr Hammond:
Our current estimate of the opening number in 2014 is 5,200. We do not think there will be an increased risk to them. There are balancing factors to consider. On the one hand, we will be mentoring and advising at a higher level of command; that will imply a lower footprint, fewer bases and fewer patrols going outside the wire. On the other hand, we will be drawing down, and drawing down and evacuating equipment is by its nature a complex and risk-based business. But I think overall we would not expect the total amount of risk to increase during the draw-down, taking those two factors together.

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