UK military’s overseas clout ‘diminished’

By Oliver Hotham

The British military's ability to conduct another operation like last year's intervention in Libya will be hampered by cuts, according to MPs.

The report by the Commons' defence committee concluded the government will have to prioritise in further military commitments in a report out today.

Its findings reflected the aim of the 2010 strategic defence and security review that the British Army would have to be more 'selective' about its involvement in future military ventures.

“We consider that the Libya operation raises important questions as to the extent of the United Kingdom's national contingent capability," committee chair James Arbuthnot said.

"The government needs to review our capacity to respond to concurrent threats. This work should be conducted as a matter of urgency."

He continued: "The mission in Libya was successful in discharging the UN mandate. The real test is whether the success of this mission was a one-off or whether the lessons it has highlighted mean that future such missions can be successfully undertaken, whilst maintaining the UK's capability to protect its interests elsewhere."

The report also expressed concerns about Nato's "over-reliance" on the involvement of the United States, given its stated intention to shift its defence priorities to the Asian-Pacific region.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy accused the government of "limited national ambition" and claimed ministers' cuts were "downgrading Britain's military flexibility, reach and global standing".

"As global uncertainty grows daily threats are becoming harder to tackle and Britain may no longer be able to perform such a leading military role in the world," he said.

Concerns about Britain's military capacity to mount another major overseas operation have been intensified in recent weeks amid heightened rhetoric over the Falkland Islands and growing calls for international intervention to prevent further civilian deaths in Syria.