UK Government

Ministry Of Defence: Defence Secretary answers your questions in run-up to key conference

Press Release   •   Jan 22, 2010 11:17 GMT

As London prepares to stage an international conference that will play a crucial role in shaping Afghanistan’s future, Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth is hitting the internet to answer the public’s questions.

In two initiatives in the week of Afghanistan: The London Conference, Mr Ainsworth is inviting people interested in the UK’s presence in Afghanistan to challenge him on the strategy and progress of the operation, as well as other Defence matters.

Firstly, the Defence Secretary has joined a panel, with Foreign Secretary David Miliband and International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, to field questions via online forum Yoosk.

The web tool, at http://afghanistan.hmg.gov.uk/en/conference/045-questions/, allows users to post their own question or browse other questions that have already been posted and vote for them. The questions that have the highest public vote will then be answered by the Ministers. Mr Ainsworth will record his answers on Tuesday 26th January, so internet users have until the end of Monday to get their questions in.

Then on Wednesday 27th January – the day before the London Conference – the Defence Secretary will be logging on to the Prime Minister’s website www.number10.gov.uk to take part in a live “web chat”.  Starting at 5pm, he will spend an hour answering questions submitted on a range of relevant topics.  Questions can be submitted in advance from today.

This direct engagement with members of the British public follows the Defence Secretary’s answering of a series of questions submitted by Afghan radio listeners. His words will be translated into Pashto and Dari, and broadcast on the BBC World Service in the region.

Bob Ainsworth said:

“I found the opportunity, provided by BBC World Service, to answer questions posed directly by Afghan people really valuable and worthwhile.  I’m very much looking forward to having that same sort of engagement with members of the British public.

“Getting across to people the message about why we are in Afghanistan, how crucial it is that we succeed, and the consequences of failure, is so important.  I have no doubt that the London Conference will highlight these issues in the mindset of the British public.  I look forward to tackling many of the questions and concerns that people have.”

Co-hosted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Afghanistan: The London Conference aims to galvanise the international effort on political and economic progress, as well as on security.  It will also allow President Karzai to present his plans for Afghanistan’s future.

It is hoped that the conference will be followed by another in Kabul and then a further conference in 2011, to maintain the momentum in strengthening Afghan leadership, security and building a better future for Afghan people.

Bob Ainsworth added:

“The core aim of the Conference is to chart the course for Afghanistan for the next 12-18 months, for President Karzai to present his plans, and the international community to agree how best to support him.  We want the Government of Afghanistan, with our support, to continue to deliver progress on the ground and gradually take more responsibility, delivering on the priorities President Karzai set out in his inauguration speech in November 2009.”

Notes to editors

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