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Friday, 4 September 2009

PM Gordon Brown on Afghanistan

Lobby correspondents have been given this information in advance of the PM's speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in about half an hour. This is a big deal, clearly, as we have been given two indications of what will be said, and also Brown will be accompanied by the Defence Secretary and the new Chief of General Staff.

In his speech the Prime Minister will answer directly the critics of the campaign in Afghanistan, he will defend the UK’s involvement in this NATO operation; will reaffirm his personal commitment to the armed forces; and will reiterate the importance of public support for the mission.

He will:
explain once more the core mission: to end the use of the region by terrorists to launch attacks on the international community, including the UK. To do this, we need an Afghan Government with strong security forces and a credible, durable political settlement.
set out what Afghanistan means for the Afghan troops being trained, and for British troop operation.
debunk the myths about under-resourcing on the front line.
update the UK's strategy around Helmand, in line with General McCrystal's thinking.

The PM will say:
On his personal commitment to the mission:
"Each time I ask myself if we are doing the right thing by being in Afghanistan and if we can justify sending our young men and women to fight for this cause, my answer has always been yes. For when the security of our country is at stake we cannot walk away".
"So today I want to take head on the arguments that suggest our strategy in Afghanistan is wrong and to answer those who question whether we should be in Afghanistan at all".
On the purpose of the mission:
"This remains, above all, not just a mission to protect the British people from the threat of terrorism but an international mission involving over 40 countries – with the full support of the UN, the G8, NATO and the EU – because we all face the same threat".
On success, and Afghanisation:
"People ask what success in Afghanistan would look like. The answer is that we will have succeeded when our troops are coming home because the Afghans are doing the job themselves".
On giving our troops what they need to do their jobs:
"Military spending in Afghanistan - the spending that comes from the Treasury reserve over and above the defence budget - is going up far in excess of the increase in troop numbers: it was around £180,000 per year to support each soldier fighting in 2006 but is now over twice that, £390,000 for each soldier".
"So be in no doubt: we are giving our service men and women the additional resources they need to keep themselves safe, to fight and succeed in their operations and to bring security to Afghanistan".
His speech will cover the tough messages the next Afghan Government must take on board: to develop political credibility and stability. It will cover winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan, as well as the importance of support from the public in the UK.

Following his visit at the weekend, he will reiterate that the mission is justified, vital, realistic and achievable.

The British government has been facing criticism of its deployment to Afghanistan in the face of British troop casualties and other outspoken expressions of discontent from within the military establishment, so I see this as an effort to counter those voices.

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