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Foreign Secretary: "Need to remain vigilant against al-Qaeda"

Foreign Secretary comments on the death of Osama Bin Laden and the need to remain vigilant against al-Qaeda and associated groups

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Speaking on BBC Radio’s Today programme the Foreign Secretary said:

“Osama bin Laden still mattered hugely. There is no doubt about that. This was the world’s most prominent leader, and so he mattered enormously in an organisation which, remember, is a franchise, al-Qaeda, with semi-independent groups that take inspiration from a central leadership. It was of great importance that he was still alive and active, and it is unequivocally a good thing that he is no longer able to pursue terror, murder and mayhem in the world.

This is not the end of being vigilant against al-Qaeda and associated groups, and in fact there may be parts of al-Qaeda that will try to show that they are still in business in the coming weeks, as indeed some of them are. So I have already this morning asked our embassies to review their security, to make sure that vigilance is heightened, and I think that will have to be our posture for some time to come. So this is a very serious blow to al-Qaeda. But like any organisation that has suffered a serious blow, they will want to show in some way that they are still able to operate.

Be in no doubt that for the long term the removal of Osama bin Laden from the scene is a very, very positive development, and we congratulate the United States on the success of their operation.”

Asked about the role of Pakistan and the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan the Foreign Secretary said:

“Pakistan is in the front line of fighting terrorism itself, so I think there is no doubt that the Pakistani government will welcome, as indeed they have formally welcomed, this news. It will help; such successes help in the end to bring greater stability and peace to Pakistan as well as in the long term to Afghanistan, and so this should be welcomed in Pakistan as well.

We are clear about what we will do in Afghanistan: that we are building up the Afghan national security forces for 2014; the transition of provinces and districts has begun, of course, this year to Afghan security control. And that programme will continue, and it will remain a very difficult task. So just as we should be clear that this is an important and positive development, we should also be clear that it does not mean that the problems we’re dealing with have gone away. We will still have to be vigilant - indeed, even more vigilant in the coming days about the international terrorist threat. The work in Afghanistan will continue to be phenomenally difficult, and must go on. And so it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that suddenly we have solved a mass of the world’s problems.”

The Foreign Secretary, who is currently in Egypt, added:

“It is a moment to say very clearly that there is a peaceful way forward in the Middle East, that there is a way, as has been shown in Egypt, of accomplishing democratic change, and that the way of al-Qaeda, saying that change is only possible through violence and death and terror, is wrong and is failing, and that there’s a far better way forward for Arab people and the people of the Middle East general. Certainly people here in Egypt can see that we are on the side of open and flexible economies and political systems. There is a feeling here in Egypt that people have recovered their dignity and are able now to chart the future of their own country. Western countries have responded very positively to that. One of the reasons I’m here is to work out how we work with them in the future.”

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Published 2 May 2011