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Tomorrow, as we commemorate military sacrifice, my thoughts will be with our forces on the frontline in Afghanistan.

The commitment of these courageous men and women is humbling.  The return today of six more of the fallen is a stark reminder of the sacrifice being made.

I understand the strength of public feeling when confronted with the reality of the fighting.  Progress has come at a heavy human cost.  People rightly ask – is it worth it? Why are we there and can we succeed? 

The NATO mission in Afghanistan is a conflict of necessity, not of choice.  It must be fought to safeguard our national security. 

Sixty-seven British citizens died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 when over 3,000 people lost their lives. These attacks were planned in Afghanistan - a safe haven where Al Qaeda was able to plan and direct major terrorist operations across the world.   

We are in Afghanistan now to stop that happening again.  We are part of a coalition of over 40 nations, led by NATO, who have made this same judgement.

Some argue that Al Qaeda are now located in the borderlands of Pakistan, so there is no point staying in Afghanistan.  But if we were to abandon Afghanistan, who truly believes they would not take root there yet again?  Who truly thinks this would make Britain safer?  We would just have to do it all over again.

Those who believe we can somehow insulate ourselves, that we can retreat behind the walls of some fictitious ‘fortress Britain’, are wrong.  It would only be a matter of time before we felt the consequences of withdrawal.  Afghanistan is a distant country, but the brave men and women of our forces are protecting us from terrorist attacks just as much as the police and intelligence services do here in the UK. 

Some argue that Britain should pull out of the coalition and leave it to the Americans.  No country can protect themselves on their own – not even America.  This is our fight too.  Imagine the damage our unilateral withdrawal would do to the NATO alliance that has been the bedrock of our defence for 60 years?

Some argue that our presence in Afghanistan gives a boost to violent extremism around the world, but the greatest boost to their vicious ideology would be for us to retreat now.  Only by confronting this new, evolved, globalised form of violent extremism can we diminish its appeal. 

Some argue that Afghanistan is not the only nation where there is a risk of terrorism finding a place to take root.  This is true.  Our commitment to Afghanistan does not mean that we are failing to work with other nations to counter terrorism elsewhere. But the majority of the terror plots against the UK have connections to the border and mountain areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  So we must focus where the threat is greatest.

Pakistan is taking decisive action to tackle the Taliban and the terrorists in its borderlands. Unlike Pakistan, Afghanistan is simply not able, after 30 years of war, to deny sanctuary to violent extremists itself without the assistance of international military forces.

So our strategic objective is an Afghanistan in which violent extremists can find no sanctuary.
The goal is for Afghanistan to be responsible for its own security without the need for international troops.
Our role now is to provide the security, the support, the time and the space for this to be achieved.

Who believes at this stage that the Afghan Government could stand on its own in the face of the Taliban-led insurgency?  Who believes that violent extremism in Afghanistan would just wither away if NATO were to withdraw?

I do not deny progress can be painful and hard won.  It will cost more lives before we are finished and some of them will be British lives.  We can’t put a definitive timeframe on this, but as Afghan forces take more responsibility for the struggle, so Britain’s military commitment will be reduced.  

This will not happen overnight.  Even when we get to the point when NATO troops can step back from the frontline, we will have to continue to support Afghanistan facing down violent extremism for the foreseeable future.

We need to hold our nerve. If we do not, we hand a victory to those who would like nothing better than to claim to have beaten us.  What message would that send to terrorists across the globe?  

It is not good enough to give general support to armed forces; we need to support what they are doing as well.

Our forces’ sacrifice in Afghanistan will be at the forefront of my mind throughout tomorrow and during the hard battles that undoubtedly lie ahead. They have not died in vain and we owe it to them not turn our back on the mission. 

Bob Ainsworth is Secretary of State for Defence

Comments

Dear Mr Ainsworth,
ron_broxted wrote:
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 at 05:49 pm (UTC)
Is it worth it? No. Why is Britain there? To safeguard U.S oil interests in the region. Can we succeed? No. Pakistan is being touted as the next "objective" in this kreig ohne ende. The adage throwing good money after bad springs to mind.
A Pack Of Self-Serving Lies
reinertorheit wrote:
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 at 06:34 pm (UTC)

No, Mr Ainsworth, we're not having this at all.

Your empty lies ("we have to hold our nerve") are the same gutless bollocks that failures, crooks and liars have told British troops - and the nation that supported them - from Johnny Burgoyne to Lord Raglan to Field-Marshall Haig. And the result has been the same every time - a bloody fiasco sustained overseas whilst crooks like yourself go to dinner parties in Hampstead.

You've been utterly unable to explain why Britain is in Afghanistan. And that's not surprising, because the truth ("we are there sucking yankee cock") would be unacceptable to the voters who plan throwing you to the wolves at the next possible chance they are given.

You are one of the most useless, spineless and venal men ever to hold the post of Defence Secretary - and that's quite an achivement considering that you had John Hutton as your predecessor.

The country won't stand for this, or for you. Nor will the troops - a mutiny is seriously on the cards, and I hope it happens whilst you are visiting the troops... so that they get their chance for revenge on you and your thuggish neocon coward friends for what you've done in Afghanistan.

God will judge you and your crooked Nu Labour pals for your crimes. So if I were you, Ainsworth, I would write a provision into your will that you're buried in asbestos underpants. You're going to need them.
Re: A Pack Of Self-Serving Lies
ron_broxted wrote:
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 at 06:46 pm (UTC)
Just re-read Bobs article. Coalition? That would be a dog handler from Luxembourg and the Costa Rican Army choir? On a more serious note "terrorists" these would be the "freedom fighters" of 1989? Plod does not protect US Mr Ainsworth, they protect YOU. Britain is a worse bet today than Cuba under Batista or Vietnam in '74.
Think again, Mr Ainsworth
catotheoldie wrote:
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 at 08:00 pm (UTC)
None of the 9/11 hijackers had been skulking in caves in Afghanistan prior to carrying out their attacks on the WTC. Most were domiciled in Saudi Arabia. A couple were living in Germany. At least one was resident in the USA, where the terrorists trained for their pilots' licences.

The 7/7 bombers were all born or living in Britain prior to the London attacks. None of the three terrorists recently convicted of the plot to bomb British and American airliners had links with Afghanistan. Where there were links with any country, they, the Forest Gate suspects, the Ricin Plot suspects, and the students arrested over the Easter bombing spectacular that never was, had links with Pakistan.

So the reason given for occupying Afghanistan, that doing so keeps the streets of Britain safe from terrorism, is nonsensical. There may in the past have been attacks plotted from Afghanistan, but if Mr Ainsworth intends to occupy all countries from which attacks are plotted the army has a busy time ahead of it. He might make a start in Pakistan.

It is ludicrous to send troops to die and be maimed in some far-off land where plots may in the past been hatched. Those terrorists who pose the greatest threat to our security are homegrown, or have been allowed to settle in Britain courtesy of the Labour government of which Mr Ainsworth is a minister.
Re: Think again, Mr Ainsworth
reinertorheit wrote:
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 at 08:07 pm (UTC)
Entirely agreed, and there's a further point which Mr Ainsworth may possibly remember from Saturday Morning movies of his youth...

"IF YOU SHOOT AT PEOPLE, THEY TEND TO SHOOT BACK".
Afghanistan.
stuarttootell wrote:
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 at 11:28 pm (UTC)
Mr Ainsworth with all your high moral standards espouse from the comfort of your plush armchair the Afghanistan cause sounds a worthy one.

Perchance you are willing to leave the comfort and security of your personal ivory tower and join in the fracas ?

There is no need for the British to be supporting a drug dealing lying corrupt puppet of a president installed by the U.S. to further their own ends.

The sooner idiots like you come to your senses the better.

British military personnel are being sent out into the field under equipped, under supported as ritual sacrices on the high altar of vested interests.

The arms manufacturers,the oil companies the drug dealers, all the aforementioned entities are in cahoots and no doubt paying President Karzia (Karzi in my view is the better name!!) for the rights to have a military force sacrificed for their profits.

Inaccurate
ts_alby wrote:
Wednesday, 11 November 2009 at 11:21 am (UTC)
Mr Ainsworth,

I think a little research and accuracy is called for before you dare lecture us on whether a war is worthwhile.

The 9/11 attacks in the U.S. caused the direct deaths of 2,995 people, including 19 hijackers.

Compare and contrast to your comment "when over 3,000 people lost their lives". Sure, it's only a difference of 5, but if you cannot get that right, what other "facts" are you reciting ill-researched?

"We", will not win in Afghanistan, in exactly the same way the Russians failed to. You cannot beat people IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY who see you as invaders, even if you have, as you seem to assert, the moral right to do so.




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