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Why are we there? What the politicians said

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 13 July 2009

Channel 4 News collects the quotes from previous military and political leaders since 2001 on exactly why the British Army is in Afghanistan.

A British paratrooper observes from his position in the new ISAF military base in western Kabul  (Reuters)

"Military conflict there will be [sic] unless the Taliban change and respond to the ultimatum that has been delivered to them.

"We certainly have the power to do very considerable damage to the Taliban regime. Any action that we take will be directed towards the regime, not at the ordinary people of Afghanistan."

Prime Minister Tony Blair, September 2001

"I have not yet met members of the Bush administration who are gung-ho."

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, March 2002

"The planning assumptions are in the order of three months. But if it is necessary for us to deploy further forces, if the military advice says that is something that should happen, then obviously we will do that."

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, March 2002

"While an awful lot has been done in Afghanistan, this is Afghanistan. We're just going to have to stay with it for as long as it takes . . . to be sure that we don't permit terrorism to retake Afghanistan."

US commander general Tommy Franks, November 2002

"We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot because our job is to protect the reconstruction."

Defence Secretary Sir John Reid, April 2006

"We always knew the south (of Afghanistan) would be hard. We do have to accept that it’s been even harder than we expected."

Defence Secretary Des Browne, September 2006

"We should be thinking in terms of decades."

British ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, August 2007

"I have said for a very long time that the British armed forces are stretched. We are doing more than we are structured and resourced to do in the long term. We can do it for a short period, but we can't continue doing it ad infinitum."

Army boss, Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, November 2008

"Freeloading on the back of US military security is not an option if we wish to be equal partners in this transatlantic alliance. Anyone who wants to benefit from collective security must be prepared to share the ultimate price."

Defence Secretary John Hutton, January 2009

"The Taliban are managing to create a strategic stalemate in parts of the country through their use of improvised explosive devices. They're spreading insecurity."

Foreign Secretary David Miliband, February 2009


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