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Foreign Secretary William Hague speaks to Sky News about the handover of security operation in Afghanistan, at the NATO Summit in Lisbon.
Anna Jones (interviewer): Now let’s go back to the NATO summit because NATO leaders in Lisbon have agreed a deadline to hand over control of security in Afghanistan by 2014. Now today they’ll sign a deal agreeing the timetable for the Afghan Government to take charge of all security issues. Well let’s get reaction now from the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, he joins us from the summit in Lisbon. Good morning to you Foreign Secretary.First of all let me ask you about …
William Hague: Good morning.
AJ: … this date for a handover of security operations, tell us how this date has been arrived upon.
WH: Well this is based on the build up of the Afghan National Security Forces that are building up quite quickly now. This time last year there were about two hundred thousand of them, the Afghan Army and Police, now there are nearly two hundred and sixty thousand of them so you can see the, that Afghanistan’s own forces are being built up.
One of the things we’re doing here is agreeing that a lot more trainers go in to Afghanistan to help build them up to continue that build up over the coming years. And what this means is that as security conditions improve on the ground in certain areas of Afghanistan we can start early next year in some places to give full control to the Afghan Government and Afghan Security Forces leading up to by 2014 Afghan forces being able to lead and sustain their own operations throughout the whole country.
AJ: But what kind of state do you anticipate that the country will be in by 2014? We heard from the Chief of Defence Staff this week, General Sir David Richards, saying that it was going to be possible to ever completely defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban so what, what kind of state will Afghanistan be in by then?
WH: Well what he was pointing out is what we’ve always said and what everybody here in NATO has agreed on that there has to be a political process as well as a military campaign, there’s no military only solution. But that, that’s not a new thing, we’ve said that all along. What we want is a situation in Afghanistan where our own national security and that of our allies is protected, where Afghanistan is in a position, in a condition where Afghans can run their own affairs without presenting a danger to the rest of the world. That’s our objective, that’s why we’re there in Afghanistan to protect our own national security, that’s what our soldiers there are fighting for. So that’s what we’re trying to arrive at over these next few years.
AJ: Do you expect that British forces will stay in Afghanistan beyond that date in a non combat role and if so how long for?
WH: Well the, the Prime Minister and all of us have been very clear that by 2015, that’s the year after we intend the Afghan forces to be able to sustain their own operations around the country, British troops will not be there in a combat role or in anything like their present numbers. Now it is possible to be there in a, in other roles, in training roles and so on and, indeed, one of the things that’s going to be agreed today between Afghanistan and the rest of, and NATO is a long term partnership, a long term relationship in which Afghanistan has a long enduring relationship with NATO.
So that is the, that’s going to be the situation, likely to be the situation after 2015.
AJ: To what extent William Hague is this NATO meeting as much about what we can still afford to do as much as what we want to be able to do defence wise in the future?
WH:** Well of course there are always financial constraints but national security is one of the prime objectives of Government. We’ve conducted our own Strategic Defence and Security Review as you know and I think one of the good things that is happening here is that NATO’s own strategic concepts that we adopted yesterday is very much in line with that thinking; getting on top of new threats such as cyber security threats, emphasising preventing future conflicts, working with many more countries around the world not just the traditional NATO allies. So all of these things are now we have that thinking in common with other nations around the world and that can only be good for our security in the long term.
AJ: Foreign Secretary while I have you here I wonder if you might be able to give us an insight in to the mining disaster in New Zealand where there’s been a gas explosion, we know that twenty nine miners are trapped down that mine, we understand two Britons amongst them. Can you tell us anything about those two Brits?
WH: I can’t give you any details about them but there are, I do understand there are two British nationals. There are several people involved who, whose nationality is not yet known. Our High Commission in New Zealand is working with the New Zealand authorities to help contact the New Zealand relatives, they will give consular assistance wherever possible. We’ll also be in touch with the, with any relatives in the UK. So we are working on that and, of course, it’s a very worrying situation. We will do our utmost to assist.
AJ: Foreign Secretary, William Hague, there in Lisbon for us. Thanks very much indeed for talking to us here on Sky News this morning.
WH: Thank you.