At present there are 526 Irish soldiers serving in 11 different countries around the world. Seven of these soldiers are currently based in Afghanistan where violence has flared over the past number of weeks with stories surfacing of American and British soldiers abusing Afghani civilians. Is there a need for our soldiers to be based in countries like Afghanistan? Mick addressed this issue in the Dáil on March 14th as part of parliamentary questions put to Minister O'Dowd. You can read the exchange below or alternatively watch it here.Mick Wallace To ask the Minister for Defence when Irish defence forces personnel will be withdrawn from Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. Fergus O'Dowd I have a good briefing on this one. The Defence Forces are primarily deployed on overseas missions in support of international peace and security under UN mandates. On 20 December 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1386 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorising the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Ireland has participated in the NATO-led UN-mandated mission since 5 July 2002, following the Government decision of 2 July 2002, authorising the provision of seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service. With the increasing use of more robust Chapter VII missions, the UN has turned to regional organisations such as the European Union, the African Union and NATO, to launch and manage operations on its behalf and under its authority. Since 2002, the Government has reviewed and approved, on an annual basis, the continued participation by seven members of the Permanent Defence Force in ISAF. On 28 June 2011, the Government agreed to continue to provide seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with ISAF for a further period from July 2011, subject to ongoing review by the Minister for Defence. Currently there are no plans to withdraw the Defence Forces personnel from the mission. Participation in the mission is subject to ongoing review by the Minister for Defence. Throughout the years, Ireland has and continues to contribute highly qualified Defence Forces personnel to UN-mandated missions in small numbers or for short durations. This is a tangible and visible expression of Ireland’s continued support for organisations such as the United Nations. The seven Defence Forces personnel currently participating in ISAF are all located in ISAF headquarters in Kabul and work in staff appointments in planning and administrative roles. The Minister for Defence is satisfied that the work carried out by these personnel, particularly by those in the counter-improvised explosive device cell, represents an important contribution to this UN-mandated mission. Mick Wallace Most people would agree that the war in Afghanistan is one of the madder ones in which anyone has got involved. After 11 September 2001, the Americans were looking for someone to bash and even though no one from Afghanistan was involved in the bombing of New York, they decided to pick on Afghanistan, leading to tens of thousands killed, millions displaced, society destroyed, billions of dollars worth of destruction and the entire region destabilised. It has been one of the most historic tragedies in the past 100 years and Ireland should not be associated with it. The latest atrocity involved a US soldier who was said not to be well when he went out and killed 16 civilians. Of course he was not well, but nor were the people who went to war in the first place. Does the Minister of State not believe the lives of the Irish people there are more at risk now given that the situation is becoming even more unstable? The level of civilian deaths is at its highest since the war began ten years ago. Fergus O'Dowd The key point is what I said at the beginning. I appreciate the Deputy’s comments and I support his point about any civilians being killed in a tragic and appalling manner as happened with that one soldier doing what he did. The photographs of the child victims of that extreme and appalling action are shocking as are the deaths of all civilians. The key point is that we are there supporting a unanimous UN Security Council decision. We are not there as combatants but as part of a United Nations force. The actions of our seven soldiers there are mainly in support but also getting and giving great experience in improvised explosive devices. When a UN decision is made to withdraw the force, we will withdraw our troops at that time. Mick Wallace Having a UN mandate does not change the fact that it is completely immoral and is an absolute disaster - it does not make any sense. At the moment the British and Americans are clamouring to get out of the place, which is more unstable than ever. World security has reduced because of the experience in Afghanistan and nothing has been gained. The Taliban is stronger now than it was ten years ago and even the dogs in the street know it will take over the country once the others move out. The Government keeps reminding us that we have no money. Since the Government came to power in March 2011, what has been the cost to the State of keeping those people in Afghanistan in the most ludicrous war we can remember? Fergus O'Dowd We have seven personnel there as part of a UN-mandated force. The Deputy spoke about the Taliban and the situation in Afghanistan. The Taliban have been involved in abuses of human rights in denying women the right to be educated and people to enjoy a normal life. The Irish personnel there are rotated every six months. We are part of a group of other neutral and non-aligned countries, including Austria, Finland and Sweden. I believe the annual cost is approximately €300,000. I can confirm that to the Deputy later. Later that day Mick asked the Minister about the situation in Afghanistan again. You can watch it here or read Mick's contribution below. With regard to personnel serving abroad, I would like to put a question the Minister of State which he may have forgotten to answer previously. Is the Government concerned about the safety of Irish personnel in Afghanistan, particularly given the current climate there? Aside from the 16 civilians, including nine children, killed this week, last month US troops were caught burning copies of the Koran. US marines have also been found to have been urinating on Afghani corpses and last year members of a US unit were convicted of killing Afghani civilians for entertainment. At present, British soldiers are on trial for filming their abuse of Afghani children. Also, US Wikileaks files record 21 separate incidents of British troops shooting dead or bombing Afghani civilians. The climate is getting terrible. If my son was over there I would be very worried about him.