» Wednesday, December 2, 2009


The PMS was asked what the Prime Minister would be hoping to achieve in the 28 January conference, to which the PMS replied that it would be the first time that the international community would come together to talk about the future of Afghanistan and the first opportunity for the international community to talk directly with President Karzai. The whole political and military strategy in Afghanistan is predicated on Afghanisation and the process of partnering with Afghan troops and police so that we could make the progress we hope to make. A number of issues require international discussion and involvement and an agenda would follow on this significant event. He added that it would be likely that the benchmarks and milestones previously talked about would be discussed.

Asked whether it was a troop pledging conference, the PMS said he would not describe it in those terms because it was up to individual countries to decide how and on what basis they wanted to pledge further troops. He said we, and the Americans, had made our decisions and there would be other countries to follow; if the timing coincides then it was possible that the 28th January might be when some others announce their decision.

Asked to respond on Secretary General Rasmussen saying this morning that it was likely that NATO would provide another 5,000 troops, when the American’s wanted 10,000, the PMS said he had not seen President Obama calling for 10,000. The Prime Minister has said that he would hope that we could achieve another 5,000 and Rasmussen has said that he was confident of that.

Asked what difference the Prime Minister expected the additional American troops to make to the British troops in Helmand, the PMS referred the press to comments made by the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) this morning. He said our troops would be going out this month and the American troops early next year and it was for the military chiefs to decide how they are deployed.

Asked whether the Americans would now take the lead in Helmand, the PMS repeated that it was for the military chiefs to take decisions about the exact deployment of troops. He pointed again to the CDS comments and said that the most important thing would be that the additional troops would allow us to move forward to the next stage of the campaign.

Asked whether the Prime Minister thought President Obama’s timetable for exit was helpful, the PMS replied that it was not a definitive timetable; although he talked about 2011, he talked about the conditions on the ground having to be right. As the CDS said this morning, it would be about shifting the balance and this would be the right way to think about it in order to be able to hand over control. Asked whether the UK Government would be applying tests along the way, the PMS said we had already set out what we thought was necessary to achieve.

Pressed on a discrepancy of timing between the UK and US on an exit strategy, the PMS said that we had not said that 2010 was the year that we would pull British troops out. What we have said is that this would be the year to start the process of handover of the provinces. The Prime Minister had never used the word withdrawal in relation to 2010. It would not be the case that we would withdraw from Afghanistan within a year. He said that the Prime Minister and the President had been in close touch about the American and UK announcements.

original source.

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