16 ? 22 June 2012 As part of the International Development Select Committee I recently had the rather daunting prospect of visiting Afghanistan where our troops have been in combat for over a decade. We were there to understand how UK aid is being delivered in extremely difficult circumstances and what progress is being made to build up infrastructure, both political and industrial, in preparation for the withdrawal of our troops in 2014. After numerous safety briefings and strict instructions not to reveal where we were going, we arrived in Kabul and were immediately transferred to the British Embassy. On arrival I was struck by the environment that staff, working on behalf of the British Government, and military personnel operated in; volatile, dangerous, intense and at times with highly restrictive (but necessary) levels of security. As a Committee we met with Government Ministers, military personnel, NGO representatives, as well as Afghan elders and leaders and Afghan Women’s Groups to discuss the very real challenges that still face Afghanistan. Whilst in Helmand we spoke with the specialists in the Royal Engineer Corps that help implement UK-funded infrastructure projects such as roads, irrigation, and civic buildings. Whilst there is obviously a long way to go, and having experienced only a snapshot of UK operations in Afghanistan, I was humbled and inspired to see the bravery of our troops, the tangible improvements our aid is delivering and the strong common purpose of the international community in helping Afghanistan stand on its own two feet.