Military presence in Gulf on track
"Good progress" is being made on proposals for an expanded UK military presence in the Persian Gulf following the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan later this year, Downing Street has said.
Proposals were first floated by David Cameron during a visit to the Gulf in 2012, and the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence have been working for the past two years on potential military collaborations with countries in the region, said the Prime Minister's official spokesman.
The Times reported that t he United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman and Bahrain are all being considered as potential hosts for permanent UK military bases as part of the Government's attempts to contain the terror threat from militant groups including Islamic State, which has established a stronghold in Syria and Iraq.
Responding to the report, Mr Cameron's spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: "This is something that has been under consideration for a couple of years now. The Prime Minister spoke about it on a trip to the Gulf in November 2012.
"We have, as part of planning ahead of the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, been looking at that in collaboration with partners in the region. We of course already have military facilities there in partnership with nations in the region.
"The Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office have been working on this for quite some considerable time. I think we have been making good progress.
"The end of the drawdown in Afghanistan is very fast approaching, so we have been working to that kind of timetable."
An MoD spokesman said: "The British military has maintained a constant presence in the Middle East since the 1980s and our armed forces routinely exercise with members of the Gulf Co-operation Council.
"The MoD is currently looking at its future engagement in the region including options for our military presence in the Gulf; this work is still in development and no final decisions have yet been made."
Discussing the UK's plans in April this year, the then Defence Secretary Philip Hammond - now Foreign Secretary - said: "As we draw down from the combat situation in Afghanistan, where we have for many years had an opportunity to provide training to our forces through the deployments they do to Afghanistan, we have to think through how we will train our forces in desert warfare, in hot-conditions combat in the future.
"Certainly one of the options is to establish a more permanent facility somewhere in the Gulf."