Scottish Political Press Releases — War in Afghanistan

Salmond challenges Blair on Afghanistan
'Straight talk instead of pep-talk'

Press release issued by the Scottish National Party, 30 October 2001


Speaking today (Tuesday), Scottish National Party Westminster Group Leader Mr Alex Salmond MP challenged Tony Blair over the conduct of the conflict in Afghanistan. Speaking prior to Mr Blair's address to the National Assembly for Wales, Mr Salmond said:

'Instead of giving this stage-managed pep-talk on the war, Tony Blair should be answering searching questions on the conduct of the conflict where he can be held accountable: in the House of Commons. At this stage, we require straight talk from the Prime Minister, not pep-talks.

'Tony Blair has not taken part in a Commons debate on Afghanistan for over three weeks, where he would be forced to answer critical questions from MPs, not least from many Labour MPs.

'And unlike the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, Westminster has still even to have a substantive debate on the issue, where the Government asks for support on a specific resolution.

'There is enormous confusion and uncertainty over the aims of the conflict, and the timescale for military action. We are on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, yet we still do not have a published aid strategy to prevent starvation, and we still do not have an explanation of how the military action can be compatible with the humanitarian objectives. There is further confusion over whether the allies intend to respect the holy month of Ramadan.

'And we have mounting evidence of innocent casualties, including children, in a bombing campaign that is using cluster bombs and is hitting areas of civilian population.

'There has been no clear explanation of why the bombing campaign has spent three weeks attacking targets in population centres, with the inevitable risk of civilian casualties, as opposed to taking action against frontline dispositions.

'For these reasons, the West is comprehensively losing the battle for hearts and minds right across the Islamic world.

'The issue should be about bringing the perpetrators of the 11th September atrocities to justice, yet that is in danger of being lost amid confusion and blunders over central aspects of the campaign. We were promised a different kind of targeted conflict; thus far, it has been a depressingly old story of bombing as a blunt instrument.

'There is to be another Commons debate on the international situation this Thursday - it is high time that the Prime Minister fronted it, and was held accountable for the conduct of the conflict.'

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