NORTH Devon MP Nick Harvey has made his first visit to British troops in Afghanistan after taking up his new role as Minister of State for the Armed Forces. He was joined on the visit by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope and is the first Liber

NORTH Devon MP Nick Harvey has made his first visit to British troops in Afghanistan after taking up his new role as Minister of State for the Armed Forces.

He was joined on the visit by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope and is the first Liberal Democrat member of the new coalition government to visit troops on active operations.

The pair visited British serving in Helmand province as part of 4 Mechanised Brigade, including Royal Marines from Somerset-based 40 Commando and Royal Navy medical staff based at Camp Bastion.

They spent time chatting to servicemen and women about their experiences serving as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, asking them about the challenges they face as well as the progress they see on a day-to-day basis.

As part of a busy fact-finding schedule, Nick Harvey saw the work of British and ISAF forces in Helmand and elsewhere, including Royal Air Force personnel at Kandahar Airfield and staff based at Headquarters ISAF in Afghan capital Kabul.

He was briefed by British and US military commanders including receiving a detailed briefing from Brigadier Richard Felton, the Commander of Task Force Helmand.

He had meetings with Afghan ministers, visited medical facilities and took a look at the work of the British-led Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team, which supports the Afghan government in delivering effective security and governance across the province.

The Minister then flew by helicopter to Check Point Tapa Paraang in Lashkar Gah where he met soldiers from the 1st Battalion Scots Guards.

He saw the accommodation where the soldiers live and work before the Commanding Officer of the Guards, Lieutenant Colonel Lincoln Jopp pointed out aspects of the area of operations from a vantage point on the roof of the accommodation.

He also met a Military Stabilisation Support Team who talked him through the work that they do on the ground to interact with and reassure the local population.

"I last visited Afghanistan two years ago and this trip has shown me the vast amount of progress that has been made in that time," said Mr Harvey.

"Under General McChrystal there have been vast changes not only militarily but also politically.

"It will be a long road but Afghanistan is on the way to being a country that stands on its own feet."

Warrant Officer Class 2 (Company Sergeant Major) Andrew Johnstone from 1 Scots Guards, said of the visit:

"It's good that the Minister came out to see exactly what it is that we're doing here.

"I think by seeing the base here he can appreciate how hard we work and the steps we have taken to improve security in the Lashkar Gah area.

"It's a boost for the lads to be able to ask questions and speak directly to the politicians that are making the decisions which affect them - I think that's really important.