» Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Put that it was unusual for the Prime Minister to have to seek an assurance that troops would be properly equipped before they could be deployed overseas, the Prime Minister s Spokesman (PMS) said that we had always made clear that if we were to look at increasing troop numbers then there would be certain conditions required. Firstly, the Afghan Government needed to demonstrate its commitment to train Afghan troops and secondly, in consultation with military colleagues, we needed to make sure that every soldier and unit deployed in Afghanistan was fully equipped. Thirdly, our commitment needed to be part of an agreed approach across the international coalition.

Asked if that meant we had been willing to commit troops in the past without guarantees on equipment, the PMS said that all decisions were made in close consultation with military colleagues at the Ministerial Committee on National Security, International Relations and Development (NSID) and elsewhere. The Prime Minister and other senior colleagues had spoken to military chiefs about the approach and the conditions set out today were sensible.

Asked if the Prime Minister had had a chance to look at the issue brought up by the Leader of the Opposition at Prime Minister s Questions (PMQs) about Territorial Army (TA) pay, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was hugely grateful for the contribution that reservists made, including those who went to Afghanistan. As the Prime Minister said at PMQs, he was determined that all those involved in military operations would be properly trained and he planned to write to the Leader of the Opposition on the points that he raised. It was important to emphasise that all TA soldiers would complete the full training required before being deployed to Afghanistan.

Asked about the timing of the additional troops, the PMS said that he was unable to determine timings due to the fact that some of the deciding factors were outside of the Government s control, for example, the timing of the election process in Afghanistan. The other element to consider was the discussions that were taking place with our international coalition partners, including the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers that Bob Ainsworth would be attending in Bratislava. The Prime Minister wished for these conditions to met as quickly as possible, but at least one of them was not within the control of the UK Government.

Put that if the meeting in Bratislava went badly then the extra troops would not be deployed, the PMS said that he would not characterise that particular meeting as a critical meeting in the process; there were a number of meetings taking place, including discussions with President Obama. The coalition was made up of forty-two countries and discussions tool place across the board. The re-deployment of the Regional Battle Group from Kandahar to Helmand would take place as soon as possible as it was a reallocation of an existing troop number from one part of Afghanistan to another.

Asked how the conditions to enable the deployment of five hundred extra troops could be met, the PMS said that the announcement today was that, in principle, five hundred extra troops would be deployed and the Prime Minister hoped that the conditions could be met as quickly as possible. In terms of the Afghan elections we were hopefully a few days away from an announcement and the Prime Minister had had constructive discussions with both President Karzai and Dr Abdullah. Overriding all of this was the continued importance of Afghanisation and the Prime Minister had today set out the ways in which he hoped Afghan troops on the ground would be recruited and trained so that the five hundred extra troops could be deployed in partnership at local level and would also help to thicken the UK presence in Helmand.

Put that the deployment of extra troops seemed unlikely because of all the conditions attached, the PMS restated that the Prime Minister hoped for the criteria to be met as quickly as possible. The Chief of the Defence Staff had said that the number announced today was what the military had advised and Sir David Richards had said that 9500 troops had been asked for. The number of five hundred extra troops had been agreed and that was what we were planning for.

Asked about the situation regarding Merlin helicopters, the PMS said that it was best to speak to the relevant department for details but the general position was that the Prime Minister remained committed to ensuring that we had the right equipment in theatre and the right resources on the ground and in the air.

Asked if there was any progress regarding other NATO allies shouldering more of the burden in Afghanistan, the PMS said that there had been progress in this area; the McChrystal review was being considered both in the US and more widely in NATO and the forty-two nations active in Afghanistan had been flexing their troop numbers. We remained optimistic that this continued to be a coordinated international effort, which reinforced the Prime Minister s wish to move as an international coalition. We knew that we were the second biggest contributor to the campaign in Afghanistan but that did not mean we undervalued the other nations.

Asked if the increase of five hundred troops was a net figure, the PMS said that it was a net figure; there would be five hundred extra troops deployed in Afghanistan.

Asked why the announcement had been made today rather than waiting for the conditions to be met, the PMS that the decision had been made in principle and the Prime Minister felt it was important, after discussions with relevant bodies/figures, that it was right to tell the House of Commons. There had been a lot of speculation but this was about the Prime Minister setting out the next stage of the campaign in Afghanistan.

Asked if the deployment of extra troops would definitely happen, the PMS said that the conditions were achievable otherwise the Prime Minister would not have set them, but it was not possible to specify an exact timescale.

Asked if the Prime Minister would be disappointed if nothing had happened by Christmas to make the deployment of extra troops a reality, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had made a full statement to the House of Commons and set out, in principle, the decision to raise the number of troops in Afghanistan to 9,500. These conditions should not be a surprise to anyone.

Asked what the timeframe was, the PMS said that we hoped to deploy troops as soon as possible but we would not put an exact timeframe on it.

Put that John Hutton had said that the troops should have been deployed six months ago, the PMS said that he had not seen John Hutton s comments so could not comment on them.

Asked repeatedly if the new Afghan Government had to be in place before we deployed more troops, the PMS said that there needed to be an election result, which was an Afghan led process. The discussions that the Prime Minister had with both President Karzai and Dr Abdullah had been about anticipating what could happen once the election had been decided. The Prime Minister said in his speech today that there would be a contract with the new Afghan Government, which would include commitment to growing the Afghan army, tough action on corruption, and a more inclusive political process.

original source.

Briefing took place at 16:45 | Search for related news

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