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MPs warn over Libyan operation

Britain could struggle to mount another military operation on the scale of the intervention in Libya, MPs have warned.

The Commons Defence Committee said the Government would face "significantly greater challenges" if it had to conduct a similar size mission in future.

The committee concluded the international military intervention in Libya - which led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi - had been justified, given "the gravity of the situation and potential consequences of inaction" for the civilian population.

However, it said the mission - codenamed Operation Ellamy - was carried out before key defence cuts in the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) had been implemented.

It said the RAF had been forced to extend the life of its ageing Nimrod R1 spy planes for the operation while the Royal Navy had had to drop important tasks - such as counter-drugs operations - because of its Libya commitments.

"We believe the Government will face significantly greater challenges should an operation of similar size be necessary in the future and it will need to be prepared for some difficult decisions on prioritisation," the committee said.

"We consider that Operation Ellamy raises important questions as to the extent of the United Kingdom's national contingent capability. We urge the Government to review the United Kingdom's capacity to respond to concurrent threats.

"This work should be conducted as a matter of urgency before the next Strategic Defence and Security Review."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the operation had shown the UK still had the ability to project military power around the world.

"The Libyan campaign shows that we retain the contingent capability to conduct operations in addition to our commitments in Afghanistan, counter-piracy off the Horn of Africa, Gulf security and standing tasks such as the Falklands and defence of the UK," he said .

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