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Lawmakers question UK's military capabilities
Lawmakers warn UK defense cuts would make Libya-style intervention difficult
By The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) ' Britain would struggle to mount another operation on the scale of its intervention in Libya because of massive defense cuts, a report from lawmakers said Wednesday.

The Defense Committee report said the intervention in Libya, which led to the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi, was successful and justified but has raised "important questions" about the extent of the U.K. military's capabilities.

"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 U.K.'s capability to protect its interests elsewhere," said committee Chairman James Arbuthnot.

The committee noted that Britain's participation in the NATO mission over Libya was carried out before a decision to cut 8 percent from the defense ministry's budget was implemented, saying the government now will face "significantly greater challenges" with a similar operation in the future.

"The government will need to make some difficult decisions on prioritization, if it embarks on a future mission similar to the Libya operation now," the committee said.

But Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said Wednesday the operation in Libya had demonstrated the U.K.'s ability to project military power around the world.

The Defense Committee said it was concerned that future NATO operations may not be possible if the U.S. can't help with providing unmanned aerial vehicles, intelligence and refueling aircraft.

"For the time being, there will continue to be a heavy reliance on U.S. command and control functions for future NATO operations," the committee said. "It should be a priority for NATO to examine this over-reliance on U.S. capabilities and assets."

It also noted that due to British defense cuts, participating in new NATO operations could put standing commitments in jeopardy. The committee praised the Royal Navy's evacuation of civilians in the Libyan port of Benghazi and enforcement of an arms embargo off Libya, but noted that those actions precluded the navy from readiness to provide escort and carry out counter-drug operations.

"It is likely that this type of risk taking will occur more frequently" as defense cuts are implemented, the committee said.

The defense secretary disagreed, saying Libya highlighted the U.K.'s ability to conduct operations while fulfilling its commitments in Afghanistan, the Gulf and elsewhere.

"We retain the capability to project power abroad and meet our NATO obligations, supported by what is the world's fourth largest defense budget," Hammond said.


Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at

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