The Prime Minister and President Karzai of Afghanistan have given a press conference following their meeting at Chequers where they signed the Enduring Strategic Partnership.
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to welcome my friend President Karzai to the United Kingdom again, and also back here to Chequers. We’ve had very good discussions this morning about progress in Afghanistan, progress towards 2014 and 2015, and all that we are doing to try to help ensure a strong, peaceful, democratic unitary state of Afghanistan. And the strong relationship between Britain and Afghanistan is evidenced by the long-term partnership that we’ve just signed. Obviously Britain has paid a very heavy price fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan and tragically we’ve lost another soldier from the Yorkshire regiment recently and my thoughts and the thoughts of everyone in Britain will be with the family of that soldier for the loss that they have suffered.
But I do believe in Afghanistan that we are making progress, first of all on the ground. The level of violent incidents is down across the country, it’s down very sharply in Helmand Province where Britain has played such a strong role. The build-up of the Afghan National Army and Afghan Police Force is very much on target and that is going to be one of the keys to the future stability and security of Afghanistan. We also want to have a long-term relationship with Afghanistan long after our combat troops have come home and that will happen at the end of 2014. We will have a long-term relationship that will be based on the friendship of two sovereign nations. That will be a relationship about diplomacy, about aid, about trade, about investment and about very strong two-way diplomatic ties and conversations like we’ve been having today.
I think part of achieving that is not just what we are doing on the ground in Afghanistan with all the NATO partners, not just the long-term discussions that we’ve been having but also the need - as the President and I have often spoken about - for a political process that ensures that all Afghans, if they give up violence, if they give up terror, can play a part in a strong Afghan democratic, constitutional state for the future. That is something that needs to happen to make sure there’s a strong, successful, stable Afghanistan for the future, which is in all out interests and that we have been working towards for so long.
But, Mr President, you’re very welcome here today and I’m delighted we’ve been able to sign this long-term partnership agreement.
Thank you very much Mr Prime Minister. As always, a great delight to be here in the United Kingdom and for you Mr Prime Minister to be gracious to invite us on a Saturday to Chequers. This is my second visit and one that I’m always looking forward to repeating in Britain.
Today’s signature of the long-term partnership between Afghanistan and Britain is one more step, Mr Prime Minister, towards the commitment of the United Kingdom towards Afghanistan and into the long-term. Mr Prime Minister, Britain has been Afghanistan’s steadfast friend in the past 10 years in particular. Rightly, as you referred to, Britain has sacrificed in terms of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. The Afghan people appreciate that, respect that and remember that. Built on that foundation, the signature today of the agreement between us towards long-term relationship, will take us into a future where Afghanistan will benefit from the assistance and cooperation and help of Britain towards becoming a fundamentally strong democratic state free of terrorism and economically better off.
Mr Prime Minister, through you may I convey to the people of Britain the gratitude of the Afghan people for all that Britain has offered to Afghanistan, for having been ready to sacrifice and having been ready to share Britain’s hard earned tax-payers’ money with Afghanistan for the betterment of the Afghan life and for a better, more secure region and in consequence the entire world. Mr Prime Minister, a great honour to be here today and thank you for being so nice to receive us here and for the partnership that we just signed.
Question (ITV News)
Prime Minister, on Afghanistan, the French have announced that they are going to withdraw combat troops early. Is Britain tempted to do the same? Could we see more troops coming out by 2013?
Well, first of all on Afghanistan, all of the NATO partners, all of the countries involved in Afghanistan have signed up to an agreement that we will take our combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but we will continue after that to have a long-term partnership and relationship with Afghanistan because it’s in the interest of the whole world to have a safe and stable Afghanistan that is free from the terrorism that did so much damage to our countries in the past.
Now obviously, between now and 2014 there will be opportunities for different countries to reduce their numbers. Britain has herself reduced our troop numbers over the last year. I don’t want to see some sort of cliff edge in 2014 when all the remaining troops come out at once but clearly between now and 2014 the rate at which we can reduce our troops will depend on the transition to Afghan control in the different parts of Afghanistan. And that should be the same for all of the members of NATO who are all contributing and helping towards a strong, stable, peaceful Afghanistan which is in all our interests.
President, I think there’s a question from the Afghan press.
Thank you Mr Prime Minister. We are getting close to 2014 and as you know, the transition is in progress in Afghanistan. What’s your message for the people of Afghanistan? And your commitment after 2014? Thank you.
My message to the Afghan people is that we want what you want, which is a strong, safe, stable, democratic Afghanistan living in peace and stability with its neighbours. We want that country to be run by the Afghans, for the Afghans, with an Afghan army and police force to provide that security and that stability. That is what we hope to achieve between now and 2014. But let me be clear, after our combat troops have left in 2014, there will still be a strong relationship between Britain and Afghanistan; a relationship based on diplomacy, based on trade, based on our continued aid programme to help the Afghans build a stronger country because it’s in our interests just as it’s in your interest to make sure that the future Afghanistan is democratic and stable and free of the terror of the past. Those are our aims. They don’t go any further than that; that is what we’re in Afghanistan to help deliver and that is what we believe we can deliver by the end of 2014.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
Thank you ladies, thank you gentlemen.