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One Year On - A UK Perspective - Defence Secretary

Defence Secretary: 'We have to tackle these threats before it is too late'

The Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, has given a speech on the implications of September 11 and on the current situation with Iraq. Mr Hoon warned that 'the dangers of Weapons of Mass Destruction are at their most acute when they are combined with fanaticism and irrationality'.

Mr Hoon said that a range of techniques are needed to win the war on terrorism: political, diplomatic, humanitarian, economic, financial, intelligence and law enforcement, as well as military.

'International organisations like the United Nations must play their part in the fight against terrorism' said the Defence Secretary, 'making sure that Security Council Resolutions are enforced and respected, imposing obligations on all states to suppress terrorist financing and deny terrorists safe havens in which to operate.'

The Secretary of State said:

"We must confront terrorism at its roots, build the capabilities to deal with it and use them and work together, as an international coalition, to see the job through."

Mr Hoon also stressed the need to 'keep up our guard' against the risk of nuclear terrorism. He said that the dangers of Weapons of Mass Destruction 'are at their most acute when they are combined with fanaticism and irrationality'. He said:

"We have to tackle these threats before it is too late."

On the situation with Iraq, the Defence Secretary said:

"We cannot ignore this threat. We have to confront it. And I am pleased that President Bush is once again demonstrating his willingness to build an international coalition to address this issue."

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He added:

"It is in the interests of the rest of the world - of the whole international community - that we confront this threat. It is in the United Kingdom's national interest. That is why we are standing beside the United States in addressing this issue. It is the right thing to do."


I have very fond memories of the University of Louisville, having taught law here as a visiting Professor in 1979 and 1980. Thankfully the University's reputation for excellence survived that period, and it is a pleasure to return here today, and to be among so many friends.

Academic contacts between the United Kingdom and the United States are one aspect of the especially deep, broad and solid affinity between our two countries. Our histories are inter-linked; both by events and by shared values of freedom and democracy.

I have spent a great deal of time in the United States, both professionally and because I have so many US family members. Family bonds are always especially strong during times of conflict.

I will give you one personal example. My father served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War in India at the same time that my cousin from New Jersey was posted to England with the US Air Force. Close relatives fighting in the same conflict - albeit thousands of miles apart - who, in the course of that conflict, on the same side against tyranny, never actually met.

Today, there continues to be a unique depth of understanding and warmth between our two peoples. This touches all of us here in many aspects of our lives - in industry, in politics and the arts, in music, and, as those who lived through previous wars would testify, in the face of common adversity.

As I speak to you this evening we find ourselves in another of those times. The events are different, but the strength both nations draw from their unity and joint determination remains the same as it has always been.

The attacks of 11 September - the devastating loss of innocent life, the terrible destruction and the deep shock we all felt - constituted not only an attack on the United States, but also an attack on all those nations across the world that share America's determination to allow people to live in peace and freedom.

The British people's response to those terrible events was spontaneous. Our instinctive sharing of the shock and grief you felt is perhaps the most important measure of the ties between us. Within minutes of the plane hitting the Pentagon, many people at the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence were on the 'phone desperately trying to reach friends and colleagues there with whom they had worked for years, to check that they were all right. Amongst the wider public there was an immediate and passionate response - not just in terms of emotional support for the US people, but also in practical terms through fund-raising for the victims' families and the emergency services who did such excellent and selfless work in the days which followed 9/11. In many cases, especially amongst British fire fighters and police officers, that fund-raising and practical support continues today.

It is something deep within the psyches of both peoples - the absolute certainty that when times are hard, when we face threats, we know we will be there for one another. That is a very special kind of friendship; for the peoples of two nations, I believe that it is unique.

Like many nations, the United Kingdom has seen its share of terrorism over the years. But the events of September 11 last year were of a new and horrific magnitude. They also showed us that modern terrorism was capable of achieving strategic goals. Consequently, they not only demanded a strong response but a newly thought-through response as well.

The method of attack that day was a devastating example of the power of asymmetric warfare. It required relatively few resources compared with the intense demands of conventional warfare. Those who carried it out had no regard for life; quite the reverse - murder, suffering and horror are what they sought to achieve. We can't reason with people like that - we can only work to defeat them.

The strong sense of purpose of President Bush and his Administration, and the unity of this proud and strong nation, has been mirrored around the world, with nations playing their part in the response to the events of 11 September. And from the start the United Kingdom has been alongside the United States every step of the way.

Within weeks of the attacks, US and British forces deployed to Afghanistan. Their joint goals - to bring Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to account; to prevent bin Laden and Al Qaeda posing a continuing terrorist threat; to ensure that Afghanistan verifiably ceased to harbour and sustain international terrorism and the associated terrorist training camps; and, when it became clear that the Taliban would not comply, to bring about a change in the leadership there to ensure that Afghanistan's links to international terrorism were broken.

There were doubts in the media and elsewhere about our prospects for success. Yet Operation Enduring Freedom achieved the rapid collapse of the Taliban and of the Al Qaeda infrastructure in the region. An Interim Authority was established, and a subsequent Emergency Loya Jirga, or Grand Council, allowed a Transitional Administration to be appointed, committed to the fight against terrorism - something that no-one could have imagined only a few months earlier

This could never have been achieved without confronting and destroying the enemy. US forces led the way. But British forces were there throughout. Royal Navy submarines fired Tomahawk missiles on the first day of the campaign - and the Royal Navy has continued to play an important role in interdiction operations in the Arabian Sea. The Royal Air Force has flown reconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling missions since the campaign began. US Navy pilots relied heavily on the RAF tanker crews and the mutual respect between these two services grew yet deeper. And Britain has deployed thousands of ground troops into Afghanistan. We had teams striking at the heart of the Al Qaeda and Taliban network long before anyone realised. And between April and July we deployed around a thousand Royal Marine Commandos as a self-contained and self-supporting Task Force under US operational command to take the fight to the remaining elements of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

And this teamwork has continued from striking at the enemy to rejuvenating the society that it had tarnished. The International Security Assistance Force, which began its life under British leadership, has provided stability and security in Kabul for a new government to be formed. Nineteen nations contributed troops to the 5,000 strong International Security Assistance Force (or ISAF), which was organised and deployed in a matter of weeks. ISAF helped to bring stability to Kabul. I saw the change at first hand from my two visits to Afghanistan in early February and again in July. ISAF has helped to create a secure environment that allowed schools to re-open, women to break away from the shackles of prejudice, and the road to the Emergency Loya Jirga to be established. ISAF's success prompted the United Nations to extend its authorisation for a further six months, with Turkey now playing the Lead Nation role.

But the action taken by the international community has not been restricted to the military sphere. We have taken diplomatic action, to build up international support for the action that we were taking; economic action, to freeze the financial resources on which terrorists rely; and, of course, humanitarian action, with vast quantities of aid being poured into Afghanistan to help the ordinary people of that country, many of whom were forced to leave their homes and were facing famine.

All of this happened because the international community had the moral and political will to confront a manifest evil. That is what happened in the Second World War. After the successes of the allied military campaign, Europe could not have recovered without the Marshall Plan. Afghanistan now looks forward to a better future. That could not have been achieved without financial, military, and political support from the international community. The international community can rightly be immensely proud of what we have achieved so far.

Our Armed Forces have undertaken a huge range of tasks in Afghanistan, from find-and-strike operations, to disruption and interdiction, to training and capability building. This is likely to become increasingly the way they will operate in future. Operations will be more complex, multi-dimensional, less clearly sequenced and less predictable than the more traditional military campaigns of the past. All this has demanded that we develop a new set of military capabilities.

In the United Kingdom we have undertaken a major policy initiative to ensure that we are ready to face these new threats, and to be able to play our part in the continuing global war against terror.

We have again reviewed our defence policies and plans against the new threats. As many of you will know, we completed a major Strategic Defence Review in 1998, to ensure that our defence policy fully reflected the changes in the strategic environment since the end of the Cold War and to ensure that our Armed Forces were ready to face the challenges of that new world. Events have shown that the changes that we made as a result of the Strategic Defence Review set us broadly on the right track. But I ordered the Ministry of Defence to produce a New Chapter of that review in the wake of 11 September.

This document, which was unveiled earlier this summer, highlighted the need for new plans and equipment - not least the need to grasp the concept of what we call 'Network-Centric Capability', military jargon for combining precision weapons with the latest communications technology. We need to be able to identify the enemy fast, and then bring the necessary weaponry to bear in the shortest possible time. We need the 'sensor' and the 'shooter' to be better linked by a real-time network - we want to be able to 'Detect, Decide and Destroy'. This will give us more control of the battlespace and will allow us to take action faster, hunting down the enemy, identifying targets, and then hitting them hard.

So we are investing in a range of cutting edge technologies - enhanced airborne surveillance, unmanned air vehicles that will send back real-time pictures of the battlefield, more precision attack capabilities and improved battlefield communications.

And to invest in the new capabilities and forces needed to meet the additional challenges we now face, in the budget round for the next three year period the Ministry of Defence secured the largest sustained increase in defence spending in the United Kingdom for 20 years, with billions of pounds of new money. It is a reflection of the British Government's determination to do what needs to be done - to play our part in eliminating the threat posed by international terrorism.

But we must recognise that military force can only go so far in tackling terrorism. The counter terrorist strategy that is most likely to prove successful over the long term is one that addresses the symptoms, levers and causes of terrorism.
Terrorism does not develop in a vacuum; it grows and takes shape against a background of social, economic, and political events.

We need to use a range of techniques to win - political, diplomatic, humanitarian, economic, financial, intelligence and law enforcement, as well as military. That is what we have been doing over the last year. That is what we will continue to do. We have to deal with the symptoms and causes in order to help establish the conditions that can deliver longer term solutions.

Britain's experience, gained in Northern Ireland and elsewhere - including Malaya and Oman - is that terrorists depend on popular support and wider acquiescence beyond their extremist core constituency. Support for terrorism depends in turn on the perceived legitimacy of the terrorists' aims and the belief that these aims may only be achieved by violent methods. By starving the roots, terrorists can be isolated and societies reclaimed by the decent majority. This is no quick fix. It takes time, determination, and involves risks. When we talk about the global war on terror taking years, this is what we mean. We must remain resolute in tacking these issues - only then will we see the successful outcome we all desire.

But let us be in no doubt, this wider approach does not mean that we should fail to confront terrorism head on. Certainly we must understand terrorism, but equally clearly we must never condone it. The legitimate use of force is critical to our aim of preventing, deterring, coercing, disrupting and, ultimately, destroying terrorism. We saw this in Afghanistan - the Taliban and Al Qaeda had to be removed before we could take steps to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for terrorist planning and action.

An across-the-board counter terrorist campaign offers the best prospect of success in eliminating international terrorism as a force for change in international affairs. But the response to the attacks of 11 September showed that it cannot be undertaken successfully by any single country.

The events of 11 September demanded an international response because they were an outrage not only against the people of the United States, but against humanity. Innocent people from 90 countries perished in the attacks. Whether we have been the victims of terrorism, or terrorists seek to exploit our societies to recruit, train, finance or launch their operations, it is in our common interest to act against the people who plan and carry out these atrocities. Terrorist networks don't respect border posts - they work within and across geographical and national boundaries - and they are a direct threat to us all.

Multinational co-operation will be needed to deliver the wide range of action required to ensure success - success which will be achieved only through co-operation with like-minded friends and allies, working with other countries which can provide strategic and regional leverage, and by working in co-operation with international institutions.

International organisations like the United Nations must play their part in the fight against terrorism; making sure that Security Council Resolutions are enforced and respected, imposing obligations on all states to suppress terrorist financing and deny terrorists safe havens in which to operate. The UN has set up a Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee chaired by the United Kingdom; and it has authorised the dispatch of the International Security Assistance Force to Kabul. And other UN agencies have been at the forefront of tackling humanitarian and reconstruction issues in Afghanistan - an equally important aspect of the fight against terror.

Similarly, the European Union has implemented a raft of measures to meet the terrorist threat - from tougher law enforcement across the continent, to strengthening security against bio-terrorism. And, on the military side, the EU has adapted its Headline Goal for the European Defence and Security Policy to give deployed forces better protection from terrorist attacks. I can assure you that the European Union is solidly behind the US in tackling terrorism.

At the forefront of our collective response has been NATO, the embodiment of the transatlantic Alliance. NATO declared the events of the 11 September 2001 to be an attack on all members and invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty for the first time in its 52-year history. And NATO offered real assistance to the US-led military campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, deploying Airborne Early Warning aircraft to the US to backfill American assets and free them up for operations in the East and deploying its Standing Naval Force Mediterranean to interdict terrorist traffic in the Eastern Mediterranean - both clear demonstrations of the Alliance coming together in support of the United States.

Having stood firm during the dark days of the Cold War, NATO is now transforming itself to meet the new threats of a changing world. Allies are working together to enhance military capabilities, capabilities that are flexible, mobile, deployable and sustainable. And they are embracing new members and new partnerships, not least through the historic bond created by the new NATO-Russia Council.

Despite this, there are still some who say that developments since 11 September have underlined that NATO is an irrelevance, an anachronism of the Cold War, which has become a political talking shop rather than a military alliance lacking the commitment and ability to defend its members and to contribute to international peace and security.

That is nonsense.

NATO's role in safeguarding the security of its members and underpinning stability in Europe and the North Atlantic area has not changed. NATO is the transatlantic alliance. When its members are attacked or threatened, it responds. If the threat changes, then NATO adapts to deal with it.

NATO shares our common goal of combating terrorism and reducing the threat from Weapons of Mass Destruction. These are the immediate priorities. And the Alliance has the determination to tackle them, with new capabilities, new structures and new partnerships to make a key contribution to the campaign against terrorism.

The Alliance is also all about teamwork. The promotion of co-operation and understanding through the Partnership for Peace programme in Central Asia was vital to the campaign in Afghanistan. NATO has provided the interoperability - in language, doctrine, concepts, equipment, capabilities and training - to allow a large number of countries to work successfully together. That experience has value outside the Alliance too. The International Security Assistance Force is an excellent example. Although it was a great achievement, it was no surprise that it came together so successfully and to such good effect in Kabul, since the majority of the nations who deployed troops as part of the force were NATO Allies and, as such, entirely at home with working with one another.

In short, NATO remains absolutely the cornerstone of our collective defence policy. That is firmly the view of the British Government, and that will not change. Those who suggest that the Alliance is somehow irrelevant are very wide of the mark indeed.

In all these areas we must be determined and strong in our response. We must confront terrorism at its roots, build the capabilities to deal with it and use them and work together, as an international coalition, to see the job through.

This must be our vision. For there will be new and testing challenges on the long road ahead.

One of these is the threat from Weapons of Mass Destruction. The events of 11 September changed the way we view this threat. They underlined that we cannot simply ignore threats emerging elsewhere in the world on the basis that they are a long way from home. To sit back and hope that they won't affect us is stupidity in the extreme. We have to tackle these threats before it is too late.

In his very first statement to Parliament following the attacks of 11 September, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair drew attention to the issue of rogue states and weapons of mass destruction and to the fact that this was a growing challenge for the international community.

Both the United Kingdom and the United States firmly believe that it is vital to deal with those states that avoid their commitments not to develop, or proliferate, nuclear weapons. We made this clear at last April's conference in New York on the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and we will continue to stress the importance of compliance with the treaty, which underpins our stance on non-proliferation.

We must also keep up our guard against the risk of nuclear terrorism. The dangers of Weapons of Mass Destruction are at their most acute when they are combined with fanaticism and irrationality. Both the US and the UK - with other states - are providing funding for the International Atomic Energy Authority's programme of Protection Against Nuclear Terrorism. In particular, the UK is providing substantial assistance to Russia and other nations in the former Soviet Union, to help them to secure weapons and material that we cannot afford to see falling into the hand of others.

These global problems can best be tackled through multinational agreements - it is in all of our interests to tackle the threat - and for this reason we especially welcomed the Global Partnership initiative announced at the recent G8 summit. The Prime Minister has announced that the United Kingdom is willing to commit up to $750M over the next ten years in support of these programmes.

Terrorists and those who seek to acquire, develop, proliferate or use weapons of mass destruction have chosen a path that is alien to all decent people. They have chosen a path that involves deliberately striving to cause fear, death, and destruction. We want to make it absolutely clear to these people that not only do we intend to defeat them but that we are equally resolute in our determination to bring them, and those who hide, finance and help them, to justice and make them accountable for their appalling acts.

Of course, I cannot address the issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction without addressing the question of Iraq.

The United Kingdom and the United States are in absolute agreement that Iraq poses a unique threat to the security of the region and the rest of the world. Saddam Hussein is continuing in his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, in breach of 23 United Nations obligations. He will do all that he can to acquire these weapons. And history shows that Saddam Hussein will not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction - he has previously used them to kill thousands of his own people.

We cannot ignore this threat. We have to confront it. And I am pleased that President Bush is once again demonstrating his willingness to build an international coalition to address this issue.

After the 11 September, many commentators suggested that the United States would be impetuous in its response - for example rushing to launch cruise missile strikes against Al Qaida and the Taliban in revenge attacks.

But the United States was patient. An international coalition was built. And together the international community issued an ultimatum to the Taliban giving time for them to hand over Usama bin Laden and other wanted suspects. Only when the Taliban showed no signs of meeting the terms of the ultimatum was military action undertaken.

So this is an issue for the wider world. The United States should not have to face it alone. It is in the interests of the rest of the world - of the whole international community - that we confront this threat. It is in the United Kingdom's national interest. That is why we are standing beside the United States in addressing this issue. It is the right thing to do. I hope that other nations will join this international effort. We cannot ignore the problem - because this problem confronts us all.

Future generations will look back at the choices we make in the coming years. At how we face up to the challenges set before us. We must not avoid those responsibilities and those challenges. This is the battle for a better future - and it falls to us to win.

Because when our children and grandchildren read through their history texts, we will want them to see that through the concerted efforts of the international community, we stopped terrorism as a force for change in international affairs and that we did not back away from confronting the threat from weapons of mass destruction.

Those who question our motives would do well to envisage a world in which the kind of people who visited such horror on the United States last year or tyrants like Saddam Hussein were free to act with impunity. When people ask whether what we are doing is right, they need to think about that. And when they do, I cannot envisage them coming to any conclusion other than that we are engaged in a just campaign.

As we remember and reflect on the events of 11 September one year on, we should draw strength and courage from our shared determination to work towards a world in which such an event will never happen again.


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