Soldiers ‘could fight terrorism on Britain's streets’
The UK's armed forces could be used on the streets of the Britain to confront the threat of terrorism, under the terms of a strategic defence review (SDR) announced yesterday.
Two of the six “key questions” to be considered by the SDR will focus on domestic threats which “cannot be separated from international security”, according to a Green Paper setting out the grounds for a full scale review to start after the General Election.
Decisions need to be made on the “balance between focusing on our territory and region and engaging threats at a distance” and “what contribution the armed forces should make in ensuring security and contributing to resilience within the UK”.
The paper states: “Stronger, more effective partnership with other Whitehall departments, the intelligence agencies, police forces and others at the national level will become even more important to achieving our security objective.”
One proposal due to be considered was the formation of a rapid reaction force which could be deployed to counter Mumbai-style terrorist attacks and carry out swift operations outside the country.
On long-term missions overseas the economic circumstances meant that Britain will have to co-operate more closely with international allies like France, said the paper. While the US remained Britain's most important strategic ally, much closer co-operation should take place with other countries.
“In Europe, the return of France to Nato's integrated military structure offers an opportunity for even greater co-operation with a key partner across a range of defence activity” it added.
The main theme of the Paper was “adaptability”, imperative due to varying demands on limited resources. The 52-page document admitted that although commanders on the ground in Afghanistan have shown the ability to adapt rapidly to challenges this had been undermined by the system in London.
The Paper made it clear that the SDR will have to carried out against the backdrop of the £178bn deficit in the public finances but the £20bn updating of the Trident nuclear programme, will also go ahead.