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British defence secretary compares Afghanistan to WW1

In Afghanistan Britain is fighting in a US-led coalition against the Taliban, ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks for harbouring Al-Qaeda leaders including Osama bin Laden.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Nov 11, 2008
British Defence Secretary John Hutton compared the conflict in Afghanistan to World War I Tuesday as Europe marked the 90th anniversary of the conflict's end.

Hutton said both conflicts were fought to defend a "vital national interest" and likened the bravery of British troops fighting as part of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan to that of World War I veterans.

"In both 20th century world wars, Britain fought because we needed to defend our vital national interest. The same applies today," he said during a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank in London.

"In Afghanistan, the deployment of our armed forces was in response to an attack on our national interests every bit as unambiguous as the threat presented by the invasions of Belgium in 1914 or Poland in 1939."

In the two world wars Britain faced the threat of invasion if German-led aggression was not stopped.

In Afghanistan Britain is fighting in a US-led coalition against the Taliban, ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks for harbouring Al-Qaeda leaders including Osama bin Laden.

Hutton also paid tribute to the "extraordinary sacrifice" of the armed forces in conflicts like Afghanistan.

"Their personal bravery and courage I believe is in every way equal to the sacrifice of the generations who came before them," he said.

Hutton, who has written a book about one British regiment's experiences on the Western Front during World War I, spoke after attending a two-minute silence at the Cenotaph national war memorial in London.

Britain has around 8,000 troops in Afghanistan and 122 of its armed forces personnel have been killed there since 2001.

Some 760,000 Britons were killed in World War I.

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