Page last updated at 09:33 GMT, Friday, 6 November 2009

In full: Brown Afghan speech

Here is the full text of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's speech on his government's strategy in Afghanistan:

Let me first of all thank Admiral Style and everyone here at the Royal College of Defence Studies for the vital work that you are doing to support the development of international strategy and leadership across the world. It's a great privilege to be able to speak to the college Fellows today and to support your leadership programme.

And to this event today I am particularly pleased to be able to welcome General Parker who is about to take up his new post as the Deputy Commander of international forces in Afghanistan. And also to welcome senior serving officers from the Afghan and Pakistan armed forces.

This weekend - as we do each year - we remember the sacrifices made by generations of our armed forces who have given their lives in the service of this country. We celebrate their courage; we honour their extraordinary dedication. And we remember them with pride.

For the sacrifice - and the great achievements - of our armed forces are defining features of our nation - a testament to the strength and irrepressible spirit of a Britain always prepared to do what is necessary to protect the liberty and security of its people; a Britain that fights for its values; that stands up against the things we know are wrong.

And this is not just an essential part of British history - it is at the heart of modern Britain - and epitomised today by the immense service and sacrifice of our armed forces engaged in operations across the world; and especially - as I have seen myself on each of my visits - in Afghanistan.

So, as this weekend we rightly remember and honour many generations of British service men and women - I want to pay a personal tribute to all those who have been killed or wounded serving in Afghanistan.

As a nation we share the sorrow and grief that comes from the loss of their lives. 93 have been killed this year. That 93 is not just a number; but 93 families whose lives will never be the same again. 93 families without a Dad, or a husband, a brother or son. 93 families this Christmas with a place at their table no-one else will ever be able to fill.

And as well as those who have died, more than 100 have been seriously wounded this year - in ways that will change their lives, and the lives of their families, for ever.

In the tragic attack earlier this week, three guardsmen and two military policemen were killed carrying out the work which is so vital to our strategy, the work so feared by our enemies - working alongside the Afghan army and police - training and mentoring them so that the Afghan security forces fighting against the Taleban can be strengthened and so that one day they will be able to take responsibility for the security of their own country.

These men are our heroes today. Our nation will pay tribute to their memory this Sunday and every Remembrance Sunday. And though we owe them a debt of gratitude we can never repay; we will remember them.

And just as in the past we learnt of the bravery and sacrifice of British soldiers in the First and Second World Wars; in their fight to protect freedom both in our nation and the world; so our children will learn of the heroism of today's men and women fighting in Afghanistan - protecting our nation and the rest of the world from threat of global terrorism.

Fighting there, so that we are safer at home. Joined by countries from all over the world so that terrorism can be combated: a campaign of 43 countries prosecuted out of necessity, not of choice.

In the last decade, in hundreds of attacks across the world, Al Qaeda and those associated or inspired by them have killed thousands. These victims were Muslim, Christian, Jewish, of every faith and none.

This is a reality all the world has witnessed - in New York, Bali, Baghdad, Madrid, Mumbai, Rawalpindi - and of course right here on the streets of London.

So when people ask why we are in Afghanistan - why over 40 countries have troops on the ground - I ask them to look at this list of terrible atrocities.

We all face the same threat; we all agree on the need to take action to meet that threat; we must also agree on the strategy to meet it and the resources necessary to carry out that strategy.

Britain has consistently shouldered its fair share of the burden and more - especially in the last three years, since we deployed into Southern Afghanistan, the heartland of the Taleban. But when the main terrorist threat facing Britain emanates from Afghanistan and Pakistan; and when, although the sustained pressure in Pakistan, combined with military action in Afghanistan, is having a suppressive effect on Al Qaeda, we know that they continue to train and plot attacks on Britain from the region - this mission must not fail.

It is not easy; the choices are not simple. There is no strategy that is without danger and risk.

But that is the responsibility of leadership - of government, and of our armed forces. To do what is necessary, however difficult, to keep the British people safe. We can not, must not and will not walk away.

Investment in our borders and our domestic counter-terrorism capacity is vital: but when three quarters of terrorists plots originate in the Pakistan-Afghan border regions investment at home cannot itself insulate us entirely from the new terrorist threat we face.

Only by tackling this threat at source, can we prevent it reaching our shores. And it is the combined efforts of our armed forces, police, security services, border agency, and other agencies both at home and abroad which are our best protection against further attack.

And so I reject any suggestion that our efforts to tackle the terrorist threat abroad have distracted us from mounting the strongest possible defence against the threat at home. Our investment in domestic counter terrorism has continued to increase throughout the Afghan campaign - with the number of police working in counter-terrorism up from 1,700 in 2003 to 3,000 today, the security services doubled in size, with a budget that has risen from 1 billion in 2001 to over 3 billions by next year, with stronger protection at the border and for our crowded places, and an increasingly sophisticated approach to preventing radicalisation. Over 200 people have been convicted of terrorist offences since September 11th, with over half of those convicted in the last year pleading guilty.

And at present the biggest domestic threat continues to come from the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan. So it is right that our first line of defence is there. First, we have to help build up the capacity of the Pakistani security forces - to support their efforts and the efforts of the civilian government in Pakistan, in taking the fight to the terrorists and extremists.

They have already taken decisive action in the Swat valley and Britain is supporting them with a £30m package of aid covering humanitarian help for displaced persons, through to a comprehensive development and reconstruction plan.

The Pakistan military have now moved 28,000 troops into South Waziristan - and as a reminder of the links between extremism in these mountains on the Afghan-Pakistan border and the terrorist threat to Britain, we have seen reports of a passport found as part of this recent offensive, allegedly belonging to an individual known to be associated with the 9/11 hijackers.

In Afghanistan our role is necessarily different, because the Afghan army is not yet able to mount this kind of offensive - and so our forces are by necessity playing a front line role. But our objective is the same: if the Taleban insurgency succeeds in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda will once again cross the border and re-establish themselves in sanctuaries in Afghanistan from where they will plan, train and launch attacks on the rest of the world.

This is what our security services report to me - and that is the basis for our assessment that our presence in Afghanistan is justified, and that our strategy, set out in the spring, is the right one.

Our strategy emphasizes the need to strengthen the legitimate authorities in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and recognizes that we cannot succeed in one country without succeeding in the other.

The Taleban's original plan, when the Americans, British, Canadians, Dutch, Danish, Australian, Estonian and other countries deployed to Southern and Eastern Afghanistan three years ago - was to defeat us through conventional warfare. This plan has failed. The Taleban's hope now is that even if they can not win outright, through asymmetric warfare, through intimidating the population and through preventing economic progress, they can undermine morale and erode public support back home - and persuade us to give up before the Afghan people get to see the benefits of legitimate governance, or share in the benefits of greater prosperity.

So our strategy has moved from straight-forward counter-terrorism, to more complex counter-insurgency - protecting the people, helping the government win their support, and providing them with a stake in the future.

And that is how our strategy in Afghanistan differs from previous foreign interventions, including that of the Soviets -- which lacked the support of the population, and did not seek to empower Afghans in maintaining their own security.

So our progress is not measured in enemies killed, or battles won - it must be measured in the progress made each season in improving the quality of life of Afghan citizens, the quality of governance, and the capability of the Afghans to protect themselves - as we slowly but surely make it more and more difficult for the Taleban and Al Qaeda to rebuild their base in Afghanistan and the wider region.

Tuesday's tragic loss of life happened as British troops were mentoring the Afghan army and police.

The Royal Military Police and Service Inquiry Board is currently investigating the incident - and in parallel, an investigation is being carried out jointly by ISAF and the Afghan authorities. The investigations will cover all angles of the incident and from its findings lessons will be identified and acted upon.

The truth is, as we have always been clear, that we have not chosen the path of training and mentoring the Afghan forces because it is an easier or safer alternative - often it is the opposite - but because it is the right strategy.

The Taleban and others who seek to undermine the work our forces are doing will not divert us from our strategy.

They understand that our efforts represent our commitment to leaving a lasting legacy in the ability of local security forces to resist the Taleban.

Four hundred of our armed forces are dedicated to mentoring the afghan army; and over 100 are dedicated to mentoring the police, working together with British and European specialist police trainers. But all our forces are working increasingly closely with Afghan counterparts as we move towards the approach we call "partnering".

I saw this partnering in action in August in the joint operational co-ordination centre in Lashkar Gah - bringing together the Afghan army, police and security services - all with British mentors.

I heard how the Afghan police are often on the front line, taking heavier casualties than even the Afghan army - and also that the challenge for their mentors here is even tougher than the Afghan army - with problems of illiteracy, drug abuse and corruption.

But despite these very serious challenges the Afghan police have played a role this Summer - involved in holding the Babaji area in Operation Panther's Claw, and in the security effort around the elections, led out of the joint operations centre - which ensured that over 100 polling stations were opened and stayed open despite the Taleban threats.

We will not give up this strategy of mentoring. Because it is what distinguishes a liberating army from an army of occupation.

Not an army in opposition to local Afghan people but an army supporting local Afghan people.

And this approach to Afghanisation that we recommended more than a year ago is now the strategy of the whole coalition.

And it is essential for the whole coalition to implement it across Afghanistan.

It is well known that President Obama is considering his response to General McChrystal's report. It is clear that he sees that the response must come from the international coalition as a whole. For as we consider the nature of the threat we face, it is not the US that is being tested in Afghanistan, nor Britain, but the international community. We entered together eight years ago. We must persist together; in our different ways we must all contribute; in the end we will succeed or fail together - and we will succeed.

I have made clear to President Obama that the UK will play its full part. In July I indicated that the temporary deployment of 700 troops for the period of the Presidential election would remain beyond the elections.

Last month I announced that - if key conditions are met, including burden-sharing across the international community - then the UK would send an extra 500 troops.

This would bring the total number of British troops to 9,500. It is proof that we will not be deterred, dissuaded or diverted from taking whatever measures are necessary to protect our security - but we will also rightly insist, every time a single soldier is deployed to Afghanistan, that we have the reassurance of the military chain of command that they have the best possible equipment; that they are there in support of a clear strategy, agreed across the international community; and that an Afghan government is in place which can live up to its side of the bargain.

The sad news from yesterday reminds us that despite the tragic incident earlier in the week, the deadliest challenge facing our forces remains that of defeating the new Taleban tactic of IEDs - mines and roadside bombs. These attacks have more than doubled over the past year, as casualties have increased across the coalition - three quarters of them now due to IEDs.

Responding to this growing threat requires not one response but many: new equipment, better surveillance, specialised troops, and offensive operations - not just to find and dismantle the IEDs but also to identify and target the networks who lay them. British forces have dismantled over 1500 IEDs this year and the proportion detected compared with those that exploded has almost doubled since Spring last year.

In August I announced that we would increase the surveillance assets targeted on the bomb-makers - and last month these increases came on stream. I also announced, and last week the Chief of the Defence Staff confirmed, further increases in helicopters - ensuring that by next Spring we will have increased the number of helicopter hours, including commercially leased freight helicopters, more than threefold over the last three years.

But let us be clear: what separates successful counter insurgency from unsuccessful counter insurgency is that it is won on the ground and not in the air. We are committed to giving our commanders more options for road moves as well: we have bought another 20 Ridgeback mine-protected patrol vehicles to ensure that more will be going into action this Autumn, joining the world-class Mastiff vehicles - and since 2006 we have spent over £1billion from the reserve on new vehicles for Afghanistan.

All this equipment has to be manufactured, delivered and adapted - and the personnel trained to operate it. It is simply wrong to question our commitment as we adapt to the new tactics of the Taleban - or to doubt our willingness to pay for it. This is why we are speeding up the deployment of vital equipment - but also making its delivery a condition for further troop increases. I am determined that while it is inevitable that conditions change and our strategy must respond, the fundamental principle must remain, that every soldier and unit deployed to Afghanistan is fully equipped for the operations they are asked to undertake.

But let me also be clear. People are right to ask whether our soldiers should be placed in harm's way, if the government of Afghanistan is unable or unwilling to meet its obligations to the Afghan people. And this is the second condition I placed on any further British troop increases.

In all my conversations with President Karzai - and we have already spoken three times this week - I have said that he needs swiftly to set out his positive agenda for his second term. He needs a contract with the Afghan people; a contract against which Afghans, as well as the international community, can judge his success.

When President Karzai takes the oath of office for the second time later this month, I hope he will set out his plans in detail. International support depends on the scale of his ambition and the degree of his achievement in five key areas: security, governance, reconciliation, economic development and engagement with its neighbours.

First, security - and the Afghanisation of the security effort. The first priority of any government is to provide security for its people. It is not sustainable to subcontract that task indefinitely to the international community. So the expansion and training of the Afghan army and police must be the new government's first priority.

We have made clear for some months that Britain accepts General McChrystal's recommendation to accelerate the expansion of the Afghan army to 134,000 by this time next year. To achieve this Afghanistan has to provide up to 5,000 army recruits per month. The international community will help with funding and training - but it is the job of the Afghan government to find the recruits. And I have welcomed the Afghan intention to set up an army corps headquarters in Helmand. British forces, as part of our strategy of Afghanisation, will be ready to partner 5,000 Afghan troops in Helmand - not just embedding mentors with Afghan units, but working closer together right up the command chain.

Better governance - is the second strand of our Afghanisation strategy. Sadly, the government of Afghanistan has become a by-word for corruption. And I am not prepared to put the lives of British men and women in harm's way for a government that does not stand up against corruption.

President Karzai agreed with me yesterday that the first priority of his new government would be to take decisive action against corruption. I proposed that there be a new anti-corruption law, that a new anti-corruption commission be formed with powers of investigation and prosecution, that the commission appoint an international adviser of substance, and there be new rules for the more transparent award of contracts.

But good governance is more than the absence of corruption. It is about having properly qualified men and women in the key jobs. The world will be monitoring the new government's appointments - cabinet ministers and provincial governors - to ensure they are based on merit. Cronies and warlords should have no place in the future of Afghanistan.

Constitutional arrangements in Afghanistan were clearly severely tested by the Presidential election. Malpractice was exposed and dealt with. But as we approach next year's Afghan parliamentary elections, the flaws that have been exposed must be rectified. Neither we nor Afghanistan can afford a repetition of the quarantined ballot boxes from August's first round.

Nowhere is democracy a perfect system. But I firmly believe that everywhere democracy is the best option. In an infant democracy it will function imperfectly. Faltering beginnings are not a reason to give up. All commentators have noted what was a setback about Afghanistan's Presidential election - I accept that; but more might acknowledge that even up against insurgency, millions of people went to the polls in the first presidential election organised by Afghans themselves. A people for so long denied a say in their future, now beginning to take the destiny of their country into their own hands.

Third, a more inclusive political settlement. We commend President Karzai for reaching out to his defeated opponent. More challenging still is to reach out to those who have been outside the political process. Reconciliation and reintegration are central to future security stability and prosperity. So there needs to be an agreed process for bringing those who reject violence back into the political fold.

That process needs to be led by Afghans, but we are ready to provide support to whatever process they adopt.

Fourth, an ambitious but realistic plan for economic development to give the afghan people a stake in the future. As Douglas Alexander set out yesterday, Helmand is one of the most aid-supported places in the world - the United Kingdom alone is spending over £80 million in Helmand this year, as part of the international community's efforts totalling some £200 million. That means Helmand will receive some £200 in aid per person this year - around double the afghan national average.

So just as it is wrong to say that we are not giving the fullest financial backing to our troops, it is also a myth to say that our development effort is not directly supporting our military campaign. The challenge is to Afghanise this part of our strategy also - with an emphasis on identifying long term growth areas and investing in education and skills to match them.

Outside the cities the key to this must lie in agriculture. In the last 12 months there has been a 38% reduction in the poppy harvest in Helmand. Wheat has become the crop of choice in Governor Mangal's food zone. Such changes must be entrenched in Helmand and across the country. And at the same time President Karzai's government must deliver safe drinking water, reliable electricity, schooling for girls as well as boys, and for everyone a primary health care centre within two hours' walk. We can help; but only he and his government can deliver.

And finally, stronger regional partnerships. There are welcome indications that President Zardari will attend President Karzai's inauguration, just as Karzai attended his. Relations between the leaderships of Afghanistan and Pakistan are better than for many years. But this has yet to translate into closer cooperation between key institutions. The problems of terrorism and extremism straddle borders; so too must the solutions.

I commend the European Council and the UN for the leadership they have shown - when I met Secretary Ban this week I offered our support and help in the face of the recent attacks on their staff - and they have assured us that their withdrawal of some staff is a temporary measure while security arrangements are reviewed.

If we are to help the Afghan government to deliver against these five tests, stronger international coordination is crucial - as well as clearer metrics to measure progress. In devising these metrics the international community - and the sovereign afghan government - must listen to what the afghan people want. As well as being very clear that they do not want the Taleban back, what they say they want above all - as I heard myself at a shura in Lashkar Gah earlier this year - is security, justice, and opportunity - which correspond to the first, second and fourth of the five tests I have set out today.

Measuring security is difficult. The perceptions of the afghan people are crucial - and so are the capabilities of the afghan security forces. This year we have conducted increasing numbers of joint operations, building their capabilities by fighting alongside them. Kabul has been handed over to afghan overall control - over time, other areas will follow. We are making progress too in training Afghans in counter-terrorist and counter-narcotics operations.

As I argued in September, what we need above all is to encourage the advance of Afghan autonomy and responsibility in all these areas - because the more Afghans can take responsibility in the short term, the less international intervention will be needed in the long term.

If with our help the new government of Afghanistan meets these five tests, it will have fulfilled an essential contract with its own people. And it will have earned the continuing support of the international community, despite the continuing sacrifice.

If the government fails to meet these five tests, it will have not only failed its own people, it will have forfeited its right to international support.

What people here in Britain ask for is the same as our forces on the ground ask for - a clear sense of what success in Afghanistan would look like, and how we will get there.

My answer is: we will have succeeded when our troops are coming home because the Afghans are providing security themselves, continuing the essential work of denying the territory of Afghanistan as a base for terrorists.

The right strategy - for Britain and for the international community as a whole - is the one that enables the Afghans to take over from international forces sooner; at a higher level of capability; and with a greater level of assurance that the pressure on Al Qaeda and other terrorist and extremist groups will be maintained, and so that a safer, more stable and better-governed Afghanistan will contribute to a safer Britain - in a safer world.

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