British military face overstretch with Libyan commitment

08:34, April 07, 2011      

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British military commitment to the United Nations no-fly zone in Libya risks overstretch, a military analyst said on Wednesday.

Britain's military is beginning to feel the effects of an 8 percent cut in its budget over the next four years announced late last year.

Prime minister David Cameron's coalition government outlined plans to cut 17,000 jobs from the armed forces, and although 6,000 of these job losses can be achieved through not replacing people who have already left, a further 11,000 jobs will have to go.

Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies said the British military had been fighting above its planned levels for 10 years, with a war in Iraq, Afghanistan and now with deployment in support of a United Nations Security Council resolution imposing a no-fly zone over the north African state of Libya to prevent harm to civilians.

The commitment comes at the same time as 10,000 troops are fighting a war in Afghanistan. Barrie told Xinhua on Wednesday, " It doesn't make it any easier that the British military commitment has been above planning levels for almost a decade. Is it overstretch yes; can they cope, yes; is it ideal, no."

Attacks by Western military -- principally the United States with a large contribution from France, support from Britain, and units from other NATO countries -- began on March 19 and have been aimed at the forces of Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who has attacked rebel Libyans with his military forces.

The Americans have pulled back from a leading role in the no- fly zone, which is likely to put more pressure on British military resources.

Barrie said, "The Americans were contributing quite a lot, something like 50 percent of the coalition's airpower and if they are drawing down it inevitably means that somebody else has to bring in more resources to the table. The French have been a major contribute -- the UK less so."

The Ministry of Defense (MOD) said RAF Tornado jet aircraft Tuesday attacked targets in western Libya, hitting a total of six armored fighting vehicles and six battle tanks.

It was also announced Wednesday that four Typhoon jet fighters, used to combat Libyan jet fighters, would now become ground-attack aircraft in the absence of any threat from Libyan jets. This follows the announcement on Monday that four more Tornado aircraft would be sent to fight in the skies over Libya.

The increasing deployment comes as several hundred redundancies were announced this week in the armed forces, as the government's cuts come into operation.

Barrie commented that the deployment in Libya leaves Britain with very few spare military assets to deploy. "I think the headroom to deal with further contingencies is extraordinarily limited," he said.

Source: Xinhua
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