Sunday, 6 September 2009

David Cameron on Afganistan

This week was the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. It's a time to remember all those who fought, died and sacrificed for Britain. But it's a time, too, to remember the lessons.

Some of those lessons apply in Afghanistan today. We're fighting a ferocious war and after eight years there still seems to be no end in sight. Our troops lack vital equipment, especially helicopters. Many people want Ministers to explain more clearly what our troops are fighting for. And that anxiety is now really affecting the Government, with the resignation of an aide to the Defence Secretary. It's clear we cannot go on as we are.

We need to make it clear to the British people why we're in Afghanistan. It's simple - to stop terrorism here in Britain. We must help the Afghans to stop their country from once again hosting the world's most dangerous terrorists. So we need to train and equip the Afghan army to root out terrorists, and to support them until they can do this for themselves.

We must make sure our soldiers have the tools they need - more counter-IED capability, more helicopters, more surveillance drones, more heavily armoured vehicles, and more transport aircraft. We must support their families here in Britain, and give every assistance to the injured.

And to do all these things we need one thing more than anything else - leadership. That's something that's been desperately lacking. We've had four defence secretaries in as many years; the last one was part-time and the current one ranks 21st out of 23 in the Cabinet. That's not a great starting point when we're fighting a conflict thousands of miles away. This is a new kind of war, it's a necessary war, and we need strong leadership and relentless focus to explain that to people in Britain.

The lessons of 1939 show that Britain can turn things around in war. Six years of effort later, we won the war. I'm confident we can see success in Afghanistan. I've been out there and seen what a tremendous job our servicemen and women do. It's time they got the right kind of support from the Government at home.

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