Prime Minister Tony Blair
Statement on Military Actions Against Afghanistan
October 7, 2001
"As you will 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 if I might right at the outset
to Britains armed forces. There is no greater strength for a British Prime
Minister and the British nation at a time like this than to know that the forces
we are calling upon are amongst the very 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
pride in their courage, their sense of duty and the esteem with which theyre
held throughout the world.
No country lightly commits forces to military action and the inevitable risks
involved but we made it clear following the attacks upon the United States on
September 11th that we would take part in 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 masterminded by Osama bin Laden. Equally
it is clear that his network is harboured and supported by the Taliban regime
It is now almost a month since the atrocity occurred, it is more than two weeks
since an ultimatum as delivered to the Taliban to yield up the terrorists or
face the consequences. It is clear beyond doubt that they will not do this.
They were given the choice of siding with justice or siding with terror and
they chose to side with terror.
There are three parts all equally important to the operation of which were
engaged: military, diplomatic and humanitarian. The military action we are taking
will be targeted against places we know to be involved in the operation of terror
or against the military apparatus of the Taliban. This military plan has been
put together mindful of our determination to do all we humanly can to avoid
I cannot disclose, obviously, how long this action will last but we will act
with reason and resolve. We have set the objectives to eradicate Osama bin Ladens
network of terror and to take action against the Taliban regime that is sponsoring
it. As to 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 I gave authority for these
assets to be deployed. They include the base at Diego Garcia, reconnaissance
and flight support aircraftand missile firing submarines. Missile firing submarines
are in use tonight. The air assets will be available for use in the coming days.
The United States are obviously providing the bulk of the force required in
leading this operation. But this is an international effort as well as UK, France,
Germany, Australia and Canada have also committed themselves to take part in
On the diplomatic and political front in the time Ive been Prime Minister
I cannot recall a situation that has commanded so quickly such a powerful coalition
of support and not just from those countries directly involved in military action
but from many others in all parts of the world. The coalition has, I believe,
strengthened not weakened in the twenty six days since the atrocity occurred.
And this is in no small measure due to the statesmanship of President Bush to
whom I pay tribute tonight.
The world understands that whilst, of course, there are dangers in acting the
dangers of inaction are far, far greater. The threat of further such outrages,
the threat 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 11th 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 act for
humanitarian reasons to alleviate the appalling suffering of the Afghan people
and deliver stability so that people from that region stay in that region. Britain,
of course, is heavily involved in actually (indistinct) effort.
So we are taking action therefore on all those three fronts: military, diplomatic
and humanitarian. I also want to say very directly to the British people why
this matters so much directly to Britain. First let us not forget that the attacks
of the September 11th represented the worst terrorist outrage against British
citizens in our history. The murder of British citizens, whether it happens
overseas or not, is an attack upon Britain. But even if no British citizen had
died it 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 threaten 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 own self defence to protect
British lives. It was also an attack (indistinct) just on lives but on livelihoods.
We can see since the 11th of September how economic confidence has suffered
with all that means for British jobs and British industry. Our prosperity and
standard of living, therefore, require us to deal with this terrorist threat.
We act also because the al-Qaeda network and the Taliban regime are funded in
large part on the drugs trade. Ninety per cent of all the heroin sold on British
streets originates from Afghanistan. Stopping that trade is, again, directly
in our interests.
I wish to say finally, as Ive 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 wholly contrary to the teachings of the Koran.
These are difficult and testing times therefore for all of us. 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 UK 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, of course, is a moment of the utmost gravity for the world. None of the
leaders involved in this action want war. None of our nations want it. We are
a 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 but this cause is just. The murder of almost seven thousand
innocent people in America was an attack on our freedom, our way of life, an
attack on civilised values the world over. We waited so that those responsible
could be yielded up by those shielding them. That offer was refused, we have
now no choice so we will act. And our determination in acting is total. We will
not let up or rest until our objectives are met in full. Thank you."
Crown copyright material reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO.