» Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Asked what evidence the Prime Minister was using when he claimed in PMQs that the attack on British forces yesterday was carried out by the Taliban, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that there was evidence that the Taliban had previously infiltrated and would continue to try and infiltrate both Afghan police and Afghan army.

There had been comments on newswires issued by tribal elders in Helmand alleging that the attacker was a member of the Taliban named Gulbuddin. A Taliban spokesman had already said that they wanted to sow mistrust between the Afghan national police and foreign forces.

The most important point was that it was still early days and a full investigation was underway. We with the MOD and local forces needed to find out how this terrible incident had happened. The Prime Minister’s thoughts were with the families of those who had been killed in the incident.

Put that the view from the Embassy in Kabul was that the Taliban had not claimed responsibility for the incident and was the Prime Minister certain that the Taliban had claimed responsibility, the PMS replied that it was still early days; we had seen other such incidents that the Taliban had been involved in.

The fact that there were now a couple of pieces of evidence subsequently would appear to reinforce that. The PMS reiterated that the most important thing was to have a full investigation and prevent an incident like this ever happening again.

Put that the Prime Minister had told MPs that there was a specific claim of responsibility from the Taliban and what was the assertion based on, the PMS said that he had given examples of what we were already hearing on the ground and also the general point that in situations like this, it was often the case that the Taliban had infiltrated local police and local army. So it was not surprising that there was a possibility that the Taliban was involved.

Asked if the Prime Minister had meant to say that it could have been the Taliban, the PMS said he would be happy to double check that, but the PMS added that he was giving a couple of pieces of evidence that the Taliban could have been involved in a situation like this.

Asked if the Prime Minister was referring to Parliament or the public more generally when he spoke about resolve, the PMS said that this had been a tough campaign in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister had always been very clear that the objectives that we set ourselves remained ensuring amongst other things, that the streets of Britain were safe from terrorist threat. It was important to move forward to the next stage of Afghanisation.

Put that there had been talks with Washington about there being an overarching figure in Afghanistan controlling the campaign, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had been asked about that. There were ongoing talks about how to more tightly coordinate what was being done in Afghanistan. There were senior NATO commanders on the ground as well as General McChrystal and a lot of senior military people in the country; it was about constant coordination rather than having a single overarching individual.

Put that Phil Woolas had said earlier today that the one benefit of having our troops in Afghanistan was that it was controlling immigration and would the Prime Minister agree, the PMS said that the statistics did suggest that our presence in Afghanistan had helped to reduce numbers of applicants, but as the Prime Minister had said on many occasions, the primary purpose of being in Afghanistan was to make Britain safe from terrorism.

Asked what the Prime Minister thought of Kim Howells article in the Guardian and had it been cleared by Downing Street beforehand, the PMS said that it wouldn’t need to be cleared by Downing Street in advance as Kim Howells was not a member of Government. Kim Howells had made it clear in the article and during subsequent interviews that these were personal views.

The Prime Minister remained of the view that we had a strategy that we were seeking to deliver in Afghanistan. Asked if the Prime Minister disagreed with Kim Howells, the PMS said that the Prime Minister disagreed with his views on Afghanistan.

Put that the Prime Minister had spoken about a clean-up of Afghan government and did the Government have a list of Afghan officials that the UK regarded as corrupt, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister was very concerned about the corruption in Afghanistan and had made that clear to President Karzai in the conversations he had had with him. However it was not for the UK to have a list of individuals, but for the Afghan government as it moved forward in the next phase, to be clear how it rooted out corruption.

Put that presumably the Government had information about certain peoples track record and whether they were corrupt or not, the PMS said that he was sure that the Prime Minister would hope that once the new unity government was in place that there was the opportunity to deal with corruption in a way that was going to improve the chances of the new government succeeding.

Asked if the Prime Minister was confident that President Karzai was sufficiently robust in his approach to deal with it, the PMS said that President Karzai was now the duly elected President of Afghanistan and it was for him to take on the very significant responsibility he had and as part of that, root out the corruption.

Asked whether the Prime Minister had sought specific reassurances about the Governor of Helmand, the PMS replied not that he was aware of.

original source.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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