Monday, August 17, 2009
General Sir Richard Dannatt - interviewed by BBC News
Jane Hill, BBC News presenter interviewed General Sir Richard Dannatt today
Here is a extract from the interview:
JH: Indeed, and I appreciate that this is for soldiers no matter where they’re serving, but you will appreciate that the focus so much this week, in particular, is on Afghanistan because of the grim milestone that was reached at the weekend, because we all look ahead to the elections later in the week. What is your feeling as to whether the public understands sufficiently well why, as a nation, our men and women are still in Afghanistan?
GSRD: Well we’ve got to be… get this message out as clearly as possible: we are in Afghanistan in a mission that’s difficult and dangerous; we must succeed and we will succeed. And I’d say three things about it: first of all, it’s an operation… it’s a war that’s being fought amongst the people, the people of Afghanistan – they are the scenery, the backdrop, if you like.
But secondly, it’s about the people, it’s about the people of Afghanistan. We need to persuade them that there is a better life than being under the influence of the Taliban. We need to persuade them to get out there and vote later on in the week to support their elected government, and persuade them that their future is more properly with their elected government, and not under the influence of the Taliban.
But thirdly, it’s for the people. It’s not just for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and we could talk about that, but it’s also for the people of this country as well. I mean, there are those out there who would challenge our way of life; they’re challenging it in Afghanistan, they’re challenging it in Pakistan, and the links back here are very clear. So our security is very much wrapped up in the success that we have, or don’t have, but we are going to succeed in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, albeit it’s more difficult there. So this is amongst the people, it’s about the people, but it’s for the people, and it’s particularly about the people for the people of this country.
JH: I wonder whether there are many members of the armed forces who would like to see that message spoken about a little more, perhaps, by politicians, because you must get the sense that people read the newspaper headlines every morning and think why on earth are more and more and more largely British young men dying out there, and perhaps don’t understand everything that you have just articulated?
GSRD: Well, I don’t know, but if you think I’ve explained it clearly, then please roll this bit of film as widely as you can. I know that our ministers understand it exactly the same way and are endeavouring to put the same sort of message out. But we try and explain things clearly to our soldiers. They understand why they’re in Afghanistan. They know it’s a difficult and dangerous job, and I’m full of admiration for what they do. We’ve got to get it right. We will get it right. It’s going to take a bit of time.
We will go on doing, as the military, what we need to do until the Afghan capability is good enough to take over from us. That will take a few years. I don’t want to put a figure on that, but certainly two to four years, three to five years of this kind of level of commitment by the military. And then the development side of it, getting Afghanistan as a country that can sustain itself, that will take longer. People have talked in terms of longer figures, and that is sensible and appropriate to do that; 20, 30, 40 years – who knows how long it will take.
Places like Cambodia that previously have relied on drugs, it took that kind of length of time. But our operations are very clear: we have to clear areas of the Taliban, we have to hold them with sufficient troops, and then we have to allow a building process to go on so the people can see a better life. And when they see a better life, that’s when they’ll support Governor Mangal in Helmand, when they’ll support their elected president, whoever they elect this week, and then that’s the business about winning the hearts and minds. That’s why we say it’s about the people. Our soldiers know that, and I would really be grateful if the people of our country also understand it, because this mission isn’t just for the Afghans, it’s for the British people too. We will succeed and we must succeed – it’s really important.
JH: General Sir Richard Dannatt, thanks very much for your time this morning. Thank you.
GSRD: Thank you.