Afghanistan struggle concerns us all, says Blair

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair today pledged Britain would stand firm alongside the people of Afghanistan in their struggle "for freedom and for moderation and for democracy".

Opening a two-day international conference on Afghanistan in London, the Prime Minister said defeating the forces of extremism, fanaticism and drug crime in Afghanistan was vital not only for the people of the Asian state but for the entire international community.

The war to topple the Taliban and the ongoing struggle against insurgence in the country was a result of the international community's reaction to the September 11 terrorist outrages in the US, said Mr Blair.

Addressing Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Lancaster House summit, Mr Blair said: "That's why this is a struggle that, of course, primarily concerns the Afghan people, but it is also a struggle that concerns all of us.

"That's why we are here today. That's why we are determined to see this through and why, whatever your challenges, we will be there with you at your side, helping you.

"It is in your interests to do so, it is in our interests to do so, it is in the interests of the whole international community.

"This is a struggle for freedom and for moderation and for democracy and we will be with you."

This week's conference comes after Britain's commitment of an additional 3,000-plus troops to southern Afghanistan from this summer.

Representatives of donor countries including the UK, US and Germany, together with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, will seek to agree a five-year plan covering security, economic stability and anti-narcotics action for Afghanistan.

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