Minister defends Afghan mission as a nation remembers

As the Queen led the nation in paying respect to Britain's war dead on Remembrance Sunday the Defence Minister, Bob Ainsworth defended the country's mission in Afghanistan, saying the level of involvement could not be determined by public opinion.

As the death toll among British troops rose to 231, Mr Ainsworth acknowledged that support for the campaign had been "dented" by recent losses.



But he said it was important to "persevere" and "show some resolution", adding: "Failure will be a disaster for us."



A ComRes opinion poll today found that almost two thirds - 64% - now believe that the war is "unwinnable", while a similar proportion - 63% - wanted British troops to be withdrawn as soon as possible.



Speaking to Sky News, the Defence Secretary said: "British public opinion has been dented by the level of losses that we have received but we cannot run a campaign like this off the back of an opinion poll.



"We have to persevere, we have to show some resolution.



"This campaign is directly connected to our safety back here in the United Kingdom and people need to recognise that. Failure will be a disaster for us."



Mr Ainsworth insisted that progress was being made in Afghanistan and said troops on the ground understood the campaign was linked to Britain's national security.



He also said the Afghan government would address fundamental issues such as corruption.



Meanwhile, the Queen, warmly clad in a black coat against the autumn chill, placed the first wreath in the annual event at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

Skies were threatening but the rain held off as the Queen was followed in placing wreaths by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Harry, on behalf of the Prince of Wales who is on an official visit to Canada, and Prince William. More wreaths were also placed by the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex, the Princess Royal and the Duke of Kent.

They were followed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, foreign secretary David Miliband, high commissioners from Commonwealth countries and defence chiefs. Approximately 7,500 ex-Servicemen and women and 1,600 civilians then took part in a march past the Cenotaph.

The crowd 10 deep on the pavement observed the two minutes silence in perfect quiet at 11am before the wreath-laying event. Their minds were no doubt on the recent losses in Afghanistan, which were referred to frequently last night at the annual Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.

Stuart Gendall, director of corporate communications for The Royal British Legion, said: "It's gone very, very well. It's been a very touching ceremony, it's made all the more poignant that foremost in people's minds are the tragic deaths in Afghanistan.

"I think there are more people here today than other years, and there's a definite emotion in the air, you can really feel it.



"People are marching past remembering their fallen comrades from the Second World War, and people are falling even now in a foreign country, young men of the same age."



He said it was the first time that Prince Harry had placed a wreath on Remembrance Sunday.



The Prince has served in Afghanistan.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn