Sunday, October 2, 2011


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11. We need to better understand the threat we face from terrorists � their motivation, their capabilities, their available skills and technology, and therefore the scale and nature of any possible attack. We need to address underlying causes as well as treating the symptoms and to understand how these are related to each other.

1. As well as understanding the threat, we need to make an objective assessment of the vulnerabilities inherent in a complex, advanced, democratic society, and the consequences if these vulnerabilities are attacked. At a more detailed level, we must look, for the longer term, at

• the contribution the Armed Forces make to protecting the UK itself;

• the likely size, nature and number of potential future operations overseas to tackle international terrorism and other asymmetric threats;


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• promoting coalitions able to conduct longer duration peace support operations to prevent instability or to assist in stabilisation;

• whether this implies adjustments to our Armed Forces’ posture, structures, training and skills, or capabilities;

• priorities, recognising that we will not be able to do, or to afford, everything we might conceive; and we must help other countries and international organisations to develop similar capacity.

Tackling the Basis of Terrorism

1. Our starting point in the work we are undertaking is to ensure that we understand the causes of international terrorism. This means understanding both why and how disaffected groups turn to extremism and to international terrorism, and why terrorists are harboured in certain parts of the world.

14. No list of causes will be complete to everyone’s satisfaction, and in each specific case the balance of contributing factors will differ. Politics, religion and ideology are only part of the story. Misconstrued or taken to an unacceptable extreme they might generate terrorism. But these also produce the sets of values which lead to the rejection of terrorism and underpin the fight against terrorism. We must also consider the contribution that conflict, failures of good governance and social justice, and economic factors, might make in causing terrorism or enabling it to find refuge and support. To understand is not, however, to condone successive British Governments have taken the view that, however frustrated or even persecuted individuals may be, that can never be a justification for resorting to terrorism, especially against innocent civilians and particularly in democratic societies subject to the rule of the law.

15. Whilst the causes of terrorism can be found in a mixture of social, political and economic factors, the key seems to lie in gaining specific understanding of the particular political conditions within which particular groups emerge and operate. In taking short-term action against the symptoms of terrorism, we need to minimise the risk of contributing, in the long-term, to its causes.

• What should the international community do to address the key underlying causes of international terrorism? What specifically should the UK aim to do?• In the medium to long term, what balance should the UK seek to strike between contributing Armed Forces, on the one hand, to help address the symptoms of terrorism (ie the coerce, disrupt and destroy approaches set out in paragraphs to 4 below) and, on the other, to assist in efforts to address the causes (ie the prevent/stabilise and deter approaches set out in paragraphs 0 and 1 below)?

Threats and Vulnerabilities

16. Dealing with the various causes of international terrorism is clearly a long-term task and, given its complexity and scale, success may be difficult to measure. We need to deal with the threat, and seek to prevent possible future terrorist attacks. The events of 11 September show that no country can be invulnerable behind its borders. We cannot build a fortress Britain, and so we have to deal with the risks.

17. We need to continue to assess carefully the capabilities and motivation of those who might seek to threaten the United Kingdom. We must take care not to make assumptions from the events of 11 September that are too narrowly focused. The element of surprise was a key characteristic of those attacks, and we should in future have the agility and adaptability to deal with a wide range of scenarios rather than a few specific possibilities. Nevertheless, we can make a few tentative assumptions

• the impact of the 11 September attacks might have made terrorism against the US, its friends, allies and interests a more attractive option to extremist groups they showed it could be done;

• the range of capabilities potentially available to terrorists will continue to increase in the future with the diffusion of new technologies;

• the psychological threshold of shock may have been raised and other terrorists or possibly rogue states may in future seek to emulate the massive effect of the 11 September attacks. This might mean attempts to acquire and use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear devices;

• on the other hand, the international response to the events of 11 September may already have contributed to deterring the supporters of international terrorism, particularly states sponsoring or tolerating terrorist activity.

18. As societies become more networked, complex and economically interdependent, there are inevitably a greater range of potential targets that terrorists might seek to exploit, together with the risk of even greater effects. A more networked society can render vital services susceptible to rapid breakdown as disruption/attacks propagates through systems � for example, energy supplies or transport systems. This situation calls for high quality intelligence, reliable means of collection, accurate and speedy analysis and timely dissemination. We will not however always have intelligence of specific attacks. With its direct experience of terrorism, the UK is well used to identifying vulnerabilities and ensuring a defensive capability. But of course we continue to examine our potential vulnerabilities and the possible consequences if they were to be attacked, so that we can improve our defences and resilience where possible. We have taken steps to ensure that the right legislation is in place to counter terrorist activity in the UK, through a wide range of measures.

1. The assessment of the UK’s vulnerabilities and how to manage them is a job for Government as a whole. The Ministry of Defence needs to ensure that it can play a full part in support of the civil power where this is appropriate. Our Armed Forces have a vital role in tackling the enemy beyond the shores of the UK, most often as part of a coalition, to prevent them from having the opportunity to try to carry out an attack. Clearly we need to get the right balance between these two, connected, roles � the contribution the Armed Forces make to home defence and to countering threats abroad.

· How should we strike a balance between the defence role in helping to protect the UK, and contributing to operations against international terrorists and other asymmetric threats overseas?

Security and Defence of the UK

0. In the UK, the Home Office is responsible for counter terrorism. The lead for domestic security lies with the civil agencies, and with the police in particular, since terrorism is a crime. But the Armed Forces have always played an important part in the defence of the home base the RAF as the defender of our airspace and the Royal Navy with a key role in ensuring the integrity of our territorial waters. Immediately following 11 September, elements of the Armed Forces, including air defence fighters, were placed at increased readiness. They have been scrambled to monitor suspect aircraft on more than one occasion. Command and control arrangements have been enhanced to allow more rapid decisions. We are considering with the relevant civil departments and international bodies whether permanent changes in the posture and capabilities of such forces are worthwhile.

1. Beyond these specific roles, there are well-founded and tested procedures for support from the Armed Forces to the civil authorities to counter terrorism on land. When needed, the Armed Forces are there in support of the civil authorities. Clearly this support goes wider than terrorism � the Armed Forces have in the last 18 months responded to requests from the civil authorities for assistance with the fuel strikes, major floods and the foot and mouth epidemic.

. In the light of this experience, we are reviewing with other Departments the arrangements and level of co-ordination between civil authorities and the Armed Forces in order to maximise the utility and suitability of responses to any future requests, at the national, regional and local levels. This work looks to build on the particular strengths of the Armed Forces, its planning and co-ordination of operations, its command and control of forces as well as its nation-wide footprint of people, infrastructure and communications, and its specialist capabilities.

. Our Armed Forces have unique capabilities that have long been available in support of civil authorities when required. For example they have for many years dealt with explosive devices outside London. There is an important constitutional principle that such support - and especially the use of force � must be at the specific request of the civil authorities. A balance is also needed, in part because we must not allow international terrorists to tie up significant numbers of our high readiness Armed Forces at home, who might be more cost-effectively used to counter those threats before they arrive on our shores.

4. We are carefully considering the contribution that the Reserves can make. Reserves, both Volunteer Reservists and Regular Reservists (former servicemen and women with a continuing liability for reserve service), have contributed significantly to operations at home and overseas in recent times, for example by consistently providing volunteers to make up around 10% of personnel for peacekeeping operations in the Balkans. Recently we have carried out the first compulsory call out of Territorial Army personnel since the Suez crisis in 156 in order to provide additional specialist intelligence support for operations against international terrorism. This is in keeping with the main role for the Reserves set out in the Strategic Defence Review that they should be an essential reinforcement to the Armed Forces when deployed on operations, and closer to their regular counterparts.

5. But their wider geographical spread across the UK and associated local knowledge gives the Reserves a territorial focus, and strength, at the local and regional level. We need to consider therefore, with the Home Office and other Government Departments, and the civil authorities, whether any new tasks implied by the new scenarios can be encompassed within the existing role and capabilities of the Reserves, or if we will need to break new ground. We will also consider the volunteer ethos of the Reserves, their availability and their training.

6. Any changes that we conclude are needed regarding the role of the Ministry of Defence within the UK will be on the basis of supporting those civil agencies with primary responsibility. For changes involving Reserves, existing Reserves and their employers will be consulted first. Initially, consultation will be principally through the Council of Reserve Forces and Cadets Associations, and through the National Employers’ Liaison Committee; we hope to be in position to do so within weeks and then make public more detailed proposals.



44. This document has set out the background to, and emerging thinking from, the work on the New Chapter of the Strategic Defence Review. Although its focus is on the military dimension, we recognise that the response to international terrorism goes much wider than that � there are political, diplomatic, humanitarian, economic, financial, and legal dimensions. The response therefore involves all of Government, and all relevant Departments are engaged in work on that response. Indeed they, as well as outside experts, have been involved in our work since it started.

45. We hope this document will prompt discussion and debate. As well as developing our thinking in the areas outlined above, the Ministry of Defence will need to look at a range of options for possible adaptation of the Armed Forces for the new environment. These will include

a. drawing up assessments with the intelligence community of the potential number, scale and geographical spread of the terrorist risks in a potential 5-10 year planning horizon. This obviously requires difficult judgements, especially the interaction with the spread of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear technology;

b. assessing how frequently and on what scale the UK Armed Forces are liable to be involved (and what share we might take of an overall international effort). A key factor is the number, size and nature of operations we may have to undertake at the same time or in quick succession (for example ‘find and strike’ operations at the same time as ‘prevention’ or ‘stabilisation’ operations);

c. working out the right structures, the range of equipment and the people needed to deal with the evolving technologies and methods available to potential terrorist groups;

d. checking this “capabilities development” process against existing plans for the Armed Forces, evaluating which tasks may be achievable by elements of the current force structure (as long as these are not already fully employed) and planning how to remain agile to deal with unexpected threats;

e. a difficult area for judgement will be whether in future we will be able to choose the geographic areas in which we will need to operate (the SDR assumed that the focus of UK defence interests would be in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Gulf). We have, since the SDR, carried out significant operations as far afield as Sierra Leone in West Africa and East Timor in the Pacific, but through choice not because our vital national interests were at stake. Given the global nature of international terrorism, we need to decide whether in future we should be able to act similarly far afield when we need to, not just when we choose to. How far can we rely on partners in these regions to act so that we do not need to (or to provide us with forward staging posts if only we are in a position to act)? We need to assess what, if any, changes are required to our Armed Forces’ posture, structures and capabilities as a result of any change in view here.

46. While we have already taken immediate steps to adjust the posture of our Armed Forces in response to the changed situation and have already announced a significant additional investment of £100M to meet urgent operational requirements, we are not yet at the stage of putting forward specific long-term measures for the Armed Forces. We expect to do so in the months ahead. If these proposals require extra money, they will be considered in the normal way, including through the cross-Government Spending Review process which will conclude in the summer. The Government as a whole will need to make decisions between different dimensions of its response to international terrorism, both at home and abroad. And, as this document has made clear, there will be choices as to where we put the emphasis in Defence, especially the scale and reach of our capacity against international terrorism.

47. We will ensure that our work will leave the United Kingdom properly positioned to play its part in dealing with the new threats. Our Armed Forces are among the best in the world, and the Strategic Defence Review has already given them a wide range of effective and relevant capabilities. They must continue to have the right capabilities to defeat international terrorism and defend this country, our people, our interests and our values.

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Further Information

A wide variety of public documents are available for those seeking further information on British Defence. Statistical and historical data can be found in the “UK Defence Statistics” and the “MOD Performance Report” both published annually by the Stationary Office. The Ministry of Defence publishes a selection of information leaflets covering general issues and more specific, in depth, policy papers. These are available from

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