There is too much corruption in Afghanistan and that has got to be tackled. The new US administration, ourselves, our allies, are making that absolutely clear, and we want to see progress in dealing with corruption, which is a cancer right at the heart of Afghan society and the Afghan government. I think we're entitled to expect nothing less than that.
The Afghan government is committed to confronting and defeating the forces of violent extremism, that's why they are our allies in this very important struggle. Now the Afghan government has got to radically improve its performance. It has got to tackle this really fundamental problem of corruption. They are trying to do that, there are some very good people in the government who recognise the importance of this struggle, and how vital it is to their long-term success as a new democracy.
I would never ask British soldiers to fight and die so that Afghan boys and girls can go to the same school together. Now that would be a good result if that happened. But it's not why our men and women fight and die. They fight and die in Afghanistan to protect us here in the United Kingdom from the danger that these violent terrorists offer, and that is what we've got to be absolutely focused on. We are there in Afghanistan to prevent those people who mean us harm from having the ability to cause us harm.
We know that that's where the principal focus of the campaign against the UK is directed from. Afghanistan, increasingly Pakistan, and the nature of our mission there is to deny the space and the opportunity for the terrorists to mount their terrorist campaigns against us and our allies in Europe and around the world.
Al-Qa'ida elements are in Pakistan because they're denied that safe haven in Afghanistan. And that is one sign of success in the mission in Afghanistan; they are not able to operate as freely as they would like. But of course if we take our eye off Afghanistan and focus now simply on Pakistan, will we run the risk of just pushing the terrorists across the border back into Afghanistan? That's not a very good result.
John Hutton has been the Secretary of State for Defence since October 2008. His full interview can be seen tonight on Dispatches on Channel 4
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies