WAR DIARY: 'Phones are awake before Hoon has stood up'

Although the Afghan factions meeting in Bonn take the media

spotlight off London, MoD information officer Jonathan Spencer still has

enquiries to field - particularly from regional media

Wednesday 21 November

Time differences and limited kit make communication difficult with our

man in Kabul, chief press officer Simon Wren. He calls in on a sat phone

when he can but there's no fax or e-mail. And no water or electricity

either - the generator caught fire.

But in his role as media adviser to UK representative Stephen Evans,

Simon is in theatre - and in his element.

Senior information officer Andrew Willis is acting in Simon's place.

With e-mails to disseminate and a reloaded in-tray he's reading himself

into the war. Andrew has a bag packed, but he isn't going anywhere.

Staff are thinly spread.

Thursday 22 November

It's very quiet and media aren't calling us anyway. It takes the

pressure off for a day as the media focus is widened on diplomatic

initiatives ahead of the summit of different Afghan factions in


Friday 23 November

I'm sitting in for the MoD at Downing Street at 8.30am for Alastair

Campbell's morning meeting with senior press officers from across

government. It looks at running stories and the strategic communication


At the MoD we brief defence correspondents on the Joint Rapid Reaction

Force and clear up confusion on our forces' 48-hour notice to move.

Our weekend 'wash up' meeting keeps sight of expected stories, which

lessens surprises in the Sunday papers. There's little on the radar, but

there are snags with a media facility in theatre and back here I'm

trying to fix it - until all hours.

Monday 26 November

Having been delayed by 24 hours, our facility at Bagram air base goes


The Northern Alliance delegation leaves on an RAF flight to Bonn.

Coverage is pooled through Sky News and a Daily Mail photographer and,

for reasons of operational security, we embargo it until 9:30am.

At the Number 10 morning meeting it's our day. That's reflected in the

headlines as well as the grid. Are we in Kandahar? What are we saying? I

clarify the lines for the other press officers. I also explain that it's

not unusual in military lifestyle for troops to be stood up and stood


There's interest in UK casualties and reports have reached the press of

four SAS men injured. The subject is addressed at Defence Questions in

the Commons - and the phones are awake before Geoff Hoon has stood


Tuesday 27 November

It was busy overnight for duty press officer Joanna Millington, with

local TV leading the excitement in where our casualties may be, and a

media circus outside a hospital. We can strongly advise against

irresponsible reporting but can't avoid stupid questions.

On the world stage the Bonn Summit is in the spotlight. A chance to

catch our breath.

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