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Britain Offers to Hold Summit on Afghanistan

Britain Offers to Hold Summit on Afghanistan
Britain Offers to Hold Summit on Afghanistan
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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday that he would like to host a summit next year to chart a timetable for the handover of security in various regions of Afghanistan to the Afghan government, with an eye toward the withdrawal of NATO forces from country.

In the traditional prime minister's speech at the Lord Mayor's banquet in London, Mr. Brown said he has offered London as a venue for an international conference next year to map out the international community's next steps in Afghanistan.

"I want that conference to chart a comprehensive political framework within which the military strategy can be accomplished," said Gordon Brown. "A strong political framework should embrace internal political reform and ensure representative government that works for all Afghan citizens at the national level in Kabul and also at the provinces and districts."

The British prime minister said he hopes such a conference would result in concrete actions for handing over security operations in parts of Afghanistan back to the Afghan government.

"It should identify a process for transferring district by district to full Afghan control," he said. "And if at all possible, we should set a timetable for transferring districts to Afghan control starting next year in 2010."

Mr. Brown said British forces are needed in Afghanistan because terrorists there and in neighboring Pakistan would otherwise attack Britain. The British prime minister said he believes that an accountable Afghan government and viable army and police force need to be in place before international forces withdraw.

"It is only when the Afghans are able to defend the security of their own people and deny the territory of Afghanistan as a base for terrorists that our strategy of Afghnization will have succeeded and our troops can come home," said Brown.

Mr. Brown's speech came as the bodies of two British servicemen killed in Afghanistan were flown home to Britain and the death of another in Afghanistan was announced.