Afghan mission vital to combating al-Qa’ida, says Brown

Author: Press Association

He will say that action against al-Qa’ida has had greater impact this year
than in any 12-month period since the 2001 war to topple the Taliban, but
will warn that the terror group continues to recruit and train and could
return to Afghanistan if international forces pulled out.

The comments, in his annual Guildhall foreign policy speech, mark the latest
stage in the Prime Minister’s drive to shore up public support for the war,
following a radio interview, a speech to military top brass and an address
to the Commons in recent weeks.

They come a day after a poll in the Independent on Sunday suggesting that
almost three-quarters of voters (71 per cent) want British troops withdrawn
from Afghanistan within a year.

And they follow the death yesterday of the 96th British serviceman to be
killed in Afghanistan this year – a soldier from 7th Battalion The Rifles
who was shot while on foot patrol near Sangin in Helmand province.

Speaking at the Lord Mayor of London’s Banquet, Mr Brown will reject an
approach of “splendid isolation” and say that Britain needs a foreign policy
that is both “patriotic and internationalist”.

Britain can best defend its own national interests through international
co-operation and “leading in the construction of a new global order”, he
will say.

The Prime Minister will warn that al-Qa’ida continues to run “an extensive
recruitment network across Africa, the Middle East, western Europe and in
the UK” to attract adherents to its brand of international terror.

“Several hundred” foreign fighters are still based in the tribal areas of
northern Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, and attending training camps to
learn bomb-making and weapons skills.

And he will say that the group – headed by Osama bin Laden – continues to
maintain links with both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.

“Vigilance in defence of national security will never be sacrificed to
expediency,” Mr Brown will say. “Necessary resolution will never succumb to
appeasement. The greater international good will never be subordinated to
the mood of the passing moment.

“So I vigorously defend our action in Afghanistan and Pakistan because al
Qaida is today the biggest source of threat to our national security – and
to the security of people’s lives in Britain.

“And tonight I can report that more has been planned and enacted with greater
success in this one year to disable al Qaida than in any year since the
original invasion in 2001.”

Setting out his summary of Britain’s case for involvement in Afghanistan and
Pakistan, the Prime Minister will say: “We are in Afghanistan because we
judge that if the Taliban regained power, al Qaida and other terrorist
groups would once more have an environment in which they could operate.

“We are there because action in Afghanistan is not an alternative to action in
Pakistan, but an inseparable support to it.”

Mr Brown will reject calls for Britain to pull out of the Nato-led
International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf), bring its troops home
and concentrate on protective measures to prevent terror attacks in the UK.

“At every point in our history where we have looked outwards, we have become
stronger,” he will say.

“And now, more than ever, there is no future in what was once called ‘splendid
isolation’.

“When Britain is bold, when Britain is engaged, when Britain is confident and
outward-looking, we have shown time and again that Britain has a power and
an energy that far exceeds the limits of our geography, our population, and
our means.

“As a nation we have every reason to be optimistic about our prospects:
confident in our alliances, faithful to our values and determined as
progressive pioneers to shape the world to come.

“And that is why I say our foreign policy must be both patriotic and
internationalist: a foreign policy that recognises and exploits Britain’s
unique strengths, and defends Britain’s national interests strongly – not by
retreating into isolation, but by advancing in international co-operation.

“I believe that Britain can inspire the world. I believe that Britain can
challenge the world. But most importantly of all, I believe that Britain can
and must play its full part in changing the world.

“And to do so we must have confidence in our distinctive strengths: our global
values, global alliances and global actions; because with conviction in our
values and confidence in our alliances, Britain can lead in the construction
of a new global order.”

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