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VIDEO UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband answers to readers: "Now the Al Qaeda senior leadership is in the bad lands, the border lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan and that’s why it remains the most dangerous territory for us in the West"

Joi, 28 ianuarie 2010, 15:18 English | Top News

"The reason why we have a military presence in Afghanistan is because Afghanistan and his neighbour Pakistan, and the border areas between them, are the most dangerous place for development of terrorist training, planning, that can threaten this country", UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband says in an answer to questions by readers.

Read the full answers of David Miliband and Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ivan Lewis for readers.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband's answers to readers:

1. What are the main reasons for the UK military presence in Afghanistan?
David Miliband: The reason why we have a military presence in Afghanistan is because Afghanistan and his neighbour Pakistan, and the border areas between them, are the most dangerous place for development of terrorist training, planning, that can threaten this country. Why do I say that? I say that because in the 1990’s Afghanistan was the incubator of choice for international terrorism, that’s where Al Qaeda based itself. After 2001 and the attacks on twin towers, the international forces drove the government of Afghanistan, the Taliban government, administering misrule in that country, and it also drove out Al Qaeda that was sheltering under its umbrella; and now the Al Qaeda senior leadership is in the bad lands, the border lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan and that’s why it remains the most dangerous territory for us in the West. That’s not to say that people don’t plan terrorist incidents elsewhere in the world. We’ve all followed the Christmas events that took place in Detroit, and that have links back to Yemen closely, but Afghanistan has a military presence with British troops there, 10.000 British troops there, because of the  its centrality  to our own security. Now it’s also the case that we have development work going on there, because Afghanistan is a very, very poor country, and that would be happening anyway and even if we didn’t have had a military presence.

2. When is the war going to end? Do you believe Afghanistan can become a democracy within a reasonable span of time?
David Miliband: And that speaks directly to the essence of the strategy that we have, which is that international troops are there at the moment because without them the afghan forces would get rolled over by the insurgency that they face. However where not just there to provide an endless support or endless protection, we’re there to build up Afghan security forces so they can defend their own country. The Afghan national army now has some 90.000 troops, significantly increased over the last two or three years, on track for the 134.000 that’s the aim by next November. At every stage now, the work of international forces is partnered with the work of the Afghan forces. And province by province, district by district, the aim for the next few years the Afghans take security lead responsibility for the country that is theirs. President Karzai, the President of Afghanistan said in his inaugural address that I attended in Kabul in November, that he anticipated that within five years the whole of the country will have lead responsibility for security in afghan hands and within three years the majority of  the country. So, that is the basis on which we are proceeding; it’s fixed on the conditions on the ground and the conditions on the ground are shaped by the activity both for ourselves and with the Afghan forces.

3. Will international democratisation efforts include moves to ensure more rights for Afghan women?
David Miliband: The position of women is in law guaranteed in the constitution but of course the Constitution is words on a piece of paper, they need to be implemented. And in a country like Afghanistan where there are very strong tribal structures still, the translation of words on a page of the Constitution to the realities of daily life is not a straight forward affair. I’ve seen for myself significant efforts to make progress in the rights of women and the Afghan Constitution has strong commitments to equal right of women but it’s important not to camouflage the fact that the life of women in Afghanistan are nothing like the life of the women in this country and part of the drive for development in Afghanistan is going to have to be to enhance the life of women but they’re going to have to do it in a country where that involves big, big change.

Minister of State Ivan Lewis answers questions from readers
1. What would be the consequences of the Western/European failure in Afghanistan and in the fight against Islamic terrorism in general? 
Ivan Lewis: The ultimate danger of failure is of course an increased threat on our streets. International terrorism threatens the Alliance’s collective security as a whole. But it’s important to point out that this isn’t just a Western effort – ISAF includes for example Turkey, Jordan and the UAE. ISAF’s efforts – including the combined efforts of both our militaries – are having a suppressive effect on Al Qaeda. We know that they continue to train and plot attacks from the region, and therefore our mission must not fail. It is not easy; the choices are not simple when putting brave men and women in harm’s way. But as our Prime Minister said in November ‘we cannot, must not, and will not walk away’.  In the end, we will succeed or fail together, and we will succeed.

2. Afghanistan is an "islamic republic". Why would international forces support an Islamic state? 
Ivan Lewis: A state is fully capable of being faithful to the tenets of the Islamic faith without resorting to extremism. It should be important to all of us, as it is to the Afghans, that Afghanistan remains both true to its Islamic principles and able to defend its own borders from violent extremists, as well as delivering governance and services to the Afghan people. President Obama has said ’America is not and never will be at war with Islam’ and this should remain true for all ISAF countries. 

3. The war in Iraq has been recently declared illegal. What happens if the war in Afghanistan is also declared illegal? Who would be made responsible for the UK military involvement? 
Ivan Lewis: There is no question of the international intervention in Afghanistan being declared illegal. UK and Romanian forces, along with 41 partner nations as part of a NATO mission, are in Afghanistan at the invitation of the democratically elected Afghan Government, with the support of the majority of ordinary Afghans, and under a UN mandate which was renewed again in the autumn of 2009. Furthermore, it’s consistent with the views of the Afghan people. 

4. Why do BBC reports on Afghanistan mention only British and US troops? Does this mean that Romanian troops are just good to fight and die and then be forgotten? BBC should present positive stories about Romania as well, other than those related to the Romanian organised crime in the UK. 
Ivan Lewis: We try to counter the perception in the eyes of UK and other media that this is a UK and US dominated mission, though we would admit that domestic facing UK media tends to focus on Helmand, where predominantly UK and US troops operate. It’s important to us that the substantial contributions of other ISAF members are recognised however, including what will soon be around 1650 Romanian troops.  We are proud to be your partners in the difficult environment of Southern Afghanistan.

5. Romanians fight along British troops, however UK work restrictions for Romanians are still in place. What’s your opinion on this? 
Ivan Lewis: Work restrictions are necessary to strike a balance between the needs of the UK labour market, the wider impact of the migration on the UK and the positions adopted by other EU countries (as that affects access of the UK labour market). We cannot allow such issues to become conflated with the vital work the international community is undertaking in Afghanistan. 

6. Increasing drug production and trafficking have  been reported in Afghanistan in the past few years. Militaries from countries participating in the UN mission, including British, are rumoured to facilitate drug trafficking. Please commment on these allegations. 
Ivan Lewis: Progress is being made in tackling the drugs trade. The UN Office for Drugs and Crime has reported decreases in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan for the past two years, a 19% decrease in 2008 and a 22% decrease in 2009.  ISAF Countries have never been involved in its facilitation or protection. ISAF is committed to supporting the Government in Afghanistan in all its efforts to bring security and governance to the country.

7. How would you define a succesful outcome of the war? 
Ivan Lewis: As I mentioned above, our goal remains a stable and secure Afghanistan that plays a constructive role in the region, and is able to suppress violent extremism within its own borders. The international community, together with Afghanistan will have achieved its aims when the Afghan Government can provide this to the people of Afghanistan by themselves.

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