Blair's Afghanistan Speech
given after the start of the US and British military strikes on targets
in Afghanistan on Sunday, 7th October 2001.
As you all know
from the announcement by President Bush, military action against targets
inside Afghanistan has begun. I can confirm that UK forces are engaged
in this action. I want to pay tribute at the outset to Britain's armed
forces. There is no greater strength for a British prime minister and
the British nation at a time like this to know that the forces we are
calling upon are amongst the best in the world.
They and their families are of course carrying an immense burden at this
moment and will be feeling deep anxiety, as will the British people, but
we can take great pride in their courage, their sense of duty, and the
esteem with which they are held throughout the world. No country lightly
commits forces to military action and the inevitable risks involved. We
made clear following the attacks upon the US on 11 September that we would
take action once it was clear who was responsible. There is no doubt in
my mind, nor in the mind of anyone who has been through all the available
evidence, including intelligence material, that these attacks were carried
out by the al-Qaeda network headed by Osama Bin Laden.
Equally it is clear that they are harboured and supported by the Taleban
regime inside Afghanistan. It is now almost a month since the atrocity
occurred. It is more than two weeks since an ultimatum was delivered to
the Taleban to yield up the terrorists or face the consequences. It is
clear beyond doubt that the Taleban will not do this. They were given
the choice of siding with justice, or siding with terror. They chose terror.
There are three parts, all equally important, to the operation in which
we are engaged - military, diplomatic and humanitarian. The military action
we are taking will be targeted against places we know to be involved in
the al-Qaeda network of terror or against the military apparatus of the
Taleban. The military plan has been put together mindful of our determination
to do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties. I cannot disclose
how long this wave of action will last. But we will act with reason and
We have set the objective to pursue those responsible for the attacks,
to eradicate Bin Laden's network of terrorism and to take action against
the Taleban regime that is sponsoring him. After the precise British involvement,
I can confirm that last Wednesday the US government made a specific request
that a number of UK military assets be used in the operation which has
now begun, and that I gave the authority for these assets to be deployed.
They include the base at Diego Garcia, reconnaissance and other aircraft
and missile-firing submarines. The missile-firing submarines are in use
tonight. The air assets will be available for use in the coming days.
The US is obviously providing the bulk of the force required and leading
the operation. But this is an international effort. As well as the UK,
France, Germany, Australia and Canada have also committed themselves to
take part in it.
On the diplomatic and political fronts, in the time I have been Prime
Minister, I cannot recall a situation that has commanded so quickly such
a powerful coalition of support - not just from those countries directly
involved in military action but from many others in all parts of the world.
That coalition has strengthened not weakened in the 26 days since the
atrocity occurred. This is no small measure due to the statesmanship of
The world understands that whilst of course there are dangers in acting
as we are, the dangers of inaction are far, far greater - the threat of
further such outrages, the threats to our economies, the threat to the
stability of the world.
On the humanitarian front, we are assembling a coalition of support for
refugees in and outside Afghanistan, which is as vital as the military
coalition. Even before September 11, four million Afghans were on the
move. There are two million refugees in Pakistan and one and a half million
in Iran. We have to ask for humanitarian reasons to alleviate the appalling
suffering of the Afghan people and to deliver stability so that people
from that region stay in that region. We have already contributed £36
million to the humanitarian effort and stand ready to do more. So we are
taking action therefore on three fronts - military, diplomatic and humanitarian.
I also want to say very directly to the British people why this matters
so much to Britain.
First, let us not forget that the attacks of 11 September represented
the worst terrorist outrage against British citizens in our history. The
murder of British citizens, whether it happened overseas or not, is an
attack upon Britain. But even if no British citizen had died, we would
be right to act. This atrocity was an attack on us all, on people of all
faiths and people of none. We know the al-Qaeda network threatens Europe,
including Britain, and indeed any nation throughout the world that does
not share their fanatical views. So we have a direct interest in acting
in our self-defence to protect British lives. It was an attack on lives
The airlines, tourism and other industries have been affected, and economic
confidence has suffered with all that means to British jobs and business.
Our prosperity and standard of living require us to deal with the terrorist
threat. We act also because the al-Qaeda network and the Taleban regime
are funded in large parts on the drugs trade - 90% of all heroin sold
in Britain originates from Afghanistan. Stopping that trade is again directly
in our interests. I wish to say finally, as I have said many times before,
that this is not a war with Islam. It angers me, as it angers the vast
majority of Muslims, to hear Bin Laden and his associates described as
Islamic terrorists. They are terrorists pure and simple. Islam is a peaceful
and tolerant religion, and the acts of these people are contrary to the
teachings of the Koran.
These are difficult and testing times for us all. People are bound to
be concerned about what the terrorists may seek to do in response. I should
say there is at present no specific credible threat to the United Kingdom
that we know of and that we have in place tried and tested contingency
plans which are the best possible response to any further attempts at
terror. This is a moment of utmost gravity for the world. None of the
leaders involved in this action want war. None of our nations want it.
We are peaceful people.
But we know that sometimes to safeguard peace, we have to fight. Britain
has learnt that lesson many times in our history. We only do it if the
cause is just. This cause is just.