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Hoon: Last night British forces, acting alongside the Armed Forces of the United States, took part in the first phase of the military response to the attacks on the United States on 11 September.
American and British forces struck at thirty targets across Afghanistan. The strikes were designed to damage, disrupt, and destroy Al Qaedas terrorist network and elements of the military infrastructure of the Taliban, whose support has allowed Afghanistan to be used as a base for terrorism across the world. The targets included terrorist training camps, military airfields and air defence sites.
All thirty sites that we struck were military installations. Three were in Kabul and four close to other large settlements but twenty three were in remote areas of the country.
I know there have been media reports that bombs and missiles have fallen near civilian areas. Detonations at nearby targets and anti-aircraft fire can easily give the impression, particularly at night, that civilian areas are under attack. I can assure you that this was not the case. Neither the Afghan civilian population nor their homes and property have been targeted.
I want to pay tribute to our Armed Forces. In recent months and right across the world, they have shown time and again that they are amongst the very best in the world. We place immense trust in their courage, their sense of duty, and their professionalism. We take immense pride in the fact that they never let us down. They are rightly held in high esteem throughout the world. Our thoughts are with them and with their families at what is an anxious time for us all.
Military action is never taken lightly. The United States sought a peaceful solution. We gave them our full support in their tireless diplomatic efforts. The Taliban regime had every chance to avoid what happened last night. We gave the Taliban the chance to surrender Bin Laden and his associates for trial and to offer proof that they no longer supported terrorism. They have had more than two weeks to comply. We warned them they were running out of time. We warned them that they faced powerful military action. They did not believe us. They prevaricated. Enough was enough. Last night the United States acted in legitimate self-defence, to protect their citizens. So did we.
In that, we were supported by many other nations. Many have offered military support. Last night I spoke to my counterparts in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Belgium. They were united in their support for the action that we have taken. Preparations have been made within NATO to follow up on the commitment that they made last week to support the United States.
This military action is only one part of our wider response, which also includes equally important diplomatic, legal, economic, and humanitarian measures.
Military action against terrorism has only just begun. We and all our allies and partners are determined to root out terrorism wherever we find it. As the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, we are committed to a relentless, deliberate, and sustained campaign aimed at securing our objectives. Our Armed Forces will play their full part in this, alongside their allies from the United States, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, and the other countries who have indicated their willingness to participate.
We have no quarrel with the people of Afghanistan. They are equally the victims of the terrorists and their supporters. The United Kingdom is playing its full part in the relief efforts to prevent famine in Afghanistan this winter and among the refugees. We were the first country to pledge aid for the refugees - some £36 million - on top of the £35 million we have given to Afghanistan since 1997. We understand that last night the US dropped humanitarian supplies on an area near the border with Pakistan where there is a known concentration of refugees.
We have no quarrel with Islam. The UK is a multi-faith, multi-cultural society. We share many common beliefs, including a respect for the life of innocent people. Usama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and their Taliban supporters do not share these values.
Far, far too many Moslems have suffered and died because of Bin Laden as so many people and Governments across the Islamic world recognise. Their help and support in defeating terrorism is vital.
I will now hand you over to the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce.
Boyce: As the Secretary of State has just told you, last night American and British forces struck at thirty targets across Afghanistan in the first military response to the terrorist outrages of 11 September.
I shall now give you some more detail on the military aspects of the strike and the involvement of our forces in it.
The strikes aimed to damage, disrupt and destroy Al Qaedas terrorist network camps; and at the same time those elements of the military infrastructure of their Taliban supporters that have allowed Afghanistan to be used as a base for terrorism across the world.
These targets included terrorist training camps and also a range of Taliban military facilities including airfields, a garrison, and air defence sites capable of threatening our operations in the future.
Action against such varied targets requires a wide range of forces. Most came from the United States. But as you will be aware, the United Kingdom has gotthree nuclear submarines in the area HMS Superb, HMS Trafalgar and HMS Triumph. Royal Navy Tomahawk missiles were fired at one of the targets during the course of this action, a Taliban terrorist site.
I want to reinforce the Secretary of States point that neither the Afghan civilian population nor their homes and property have been targeted. All thirty sites that we struck were military installations. Three were close to Kabul and four close to other large settlements but twenty six were in remote areas of the country well in the countryside. Our targeting selection processes are also meticulous and we have taken enormous care to minimise any risk to the people of Afghanistan a people whom, as the Secretary of State has said are also the victims of terrorism by Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
I should also like to say something about our future operations for there will be more to come. In addition to our submarines, we are today deploying RAF tanker and reconnaissance aircraft to the region. They will be available to support further operations in the next couple of days.
Other nations apart from the UK and the US will also be involved. NATO has this morning announced the deployment of five airborne early warning aircraft to the continental US in support of the USA. The NATO Standing Naval Force Mediterranean is also now at sea awaiting the political decision to authorise their engagement. And, as you will also be aware, Germany, France and Australia have offered forces.
All these deployments show we are committed to the long haul. Last night was not a single strike. We know that defeating international terrorism and its supporters can be neither easy nor quick. The Armed Forces are ready. They are resolved to make their full contribution to that victory. I am confident that they will.
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