» Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Asked how the Government could justify a potential rise in troops of 500 when the former Head of the Army had asked for a rise of 2000, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister would make a statement imminently, so it would be inappropriate for him to make any comment on troop numbers at this moment.

The Prime Minister had always been open-minded on troop numbers, but he had also always been clear that there were a number of criteria that needed to be borne in mind; the first was ensuring that if there were to be additional troops they would be properly equipped. Having the right strategy internationally and making sure there was an Afghanistan government in place ready to take the appropriate action were other factors.

Asked whether any extra troops announced in the statement would go to Afghanistan before or after those criteria were met, the PMS said that any decision on troop numbers would have to take into account the criteria that the Prime Minister had set out.

Asked if this was over and above any decision that might be taken pending the outcome of the Afghan election, the PMS replied that the election was important. Having in place a government that could take forward the governance of Afghanistan in the right way had always been an important aspect. What we did not know at this stage was the exact timing of that; we were hoping for election results over the next few days.

Asked if the Prime Minister was aware of any other NATO countries that would announce an expansion of troop numbers in Afghanistan, the PMS said the Prime Minister was closely in touch with other NATO countries, in particular the US who had the biggest force on the ground. The McChrystal Review was being debated and at some stage recommendations would be made to the US President. The various allies were at different stages in looking at this situation; we were at the point where the Prime Minister was about to make a statement to the House.

Asked if the Prime Minister felt that countries other than the UK and the US were sharing the burden fairly, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister felt that burden sharing was an important part of the process and that was part of the reason there was going to be a meeting of Defence Ministers next week in Bratislava, which Bob Ainsworth would attend.

Asked if the Prime Minister expected NATO allies to do more, the PMS said that burden-sharing was about making sure we had the right number of total troops and resources on the ground in relation to the overall objectives of what we were trying to achieve in Afghanistan. Asked if the Prime Minister would like to see countries do more, the PMS advised people to wait for the statement.

Asked why the Prime Minister was making this statement now given that there would be a meeting next week and the subject was still being debated in the US, the PMS said that it was entirely appropriate that on a matter as important as Afghanistan, the Prime Minister made a statement to the House of Commons at the earliest possible opportunity after the House had returned.

Asked whether the Prime Minister had spoken to other leaders from the Afghanistan region recently, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was in close touch with leaders on the issue of Afghanistan. The Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Democratic Friends of Pakistan in New York a short while ago, so he was in regular contact.

Asked if this would be the final word on Afghanistan for the next few months, or could there be more news in the coming weeks following the election result and the outcome of the McChrystal Report, the PMS said he would not speculate on any troop numbers the Prime Minister may or may not speak about this afternoon. The important point was that the issues surrounding Afghanistan had been closely dealt with by the meetings of NSID and Cabinet. It was a very important issue for this country and the PMS was sure the Prime Minister would want to keep the House and other bodies informed going forward.

original source.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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