80. Since 11 September the UK has been at the forefront
of the international response. British forces have been involved
in the military campaign in Afghanistan from the start. The Secretary
of State told us
We made a contribution and we continue to make a
contribution. That contribution is significant, but I accept secondary
to the contribution that the United States can make...
He made particular reference to the RAF's contribution
We were able to give enormous support to the strike
bombing capabilities that the United States have by offering mid-air
refuelling, something that perhaps has not been given sufficient
attention. We supported at least 220 of those bombing missions
over Afghanistan, at times involving members of Britain's Armed
Forces in some very, very dangerous situations.
Our forces have also been involved on the ground
and the Royal Navy contributed to the missile strikes at the start
of the campaign.
81. The Prime Minister and other senior ministers
have been extremely active in maintaining the international coalition.
They have expressed their full support for the United States people
82. But there have been criticisms elsewhere of the
actions taken by the United States. Professor Rogers believed
that after 11 September the United States might have taken what
he called 'the international law route'.
This would have involved the creation of a coalition and the participation
of regional countries to 'work out ways to bring the network to
justice, even though if would take some years'.
He was not convinced that the path which the United States had
actually taken was the right path.
83. We do not agree. The United States did not rush
into military action. It took steps to ensure that its actions
complied with international law. As required under Article 51
of the UN Charter it reported to the Security Council that it
planned to take measures in the exercise of its right of self-defence.
It offered the Taliban regime in Afghanistan the chance to expel
those whom they had identified as the perpetrators of the attacks
upon them. In the words of Sir Tim Garden 'they waited and they
took a very precise and measured response.'
On 4 October the Foreign Secretary told the House
I cannot emphasize enough that the actions that the
United States, we and other partners in the international coalition
have in contemplation are entirely within the framework of international
84. This is not the occasion to examine the military
actions which are still being pursued. We also note that our colleagues
on the Foreign Affairs Committee are undertaking an inquiry into
the Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism. But,
we do state now that we support the measured response taken
by the United States and we applaud the British government's action
in standing shoulder to shoulder with them politically and militarily.
We welcome the statement of the Secretary of State for Defence
I do not believe that in the period since 11 September
two countries could have worked more closely together than the
United States and the United Kingdom.
85. There is a dilemma for the UK, however, in deciding
how it might support the US and most effectively contribute to
the fight against terrorism. In a recent speech, Admiral Sir Michael
Boyce, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), drew comparisons
between the approaches being adopted by the UK and by the US.
There has been some discussion about where the campaign against
terrorism will venture next, including the possible focus for
further US military action, although CDS noted that the current
action in Afghanistan has 'had a beneficial effect on the behaviour
of potential sponsor states such as Yemen, Sudan and Syria.'
86. He argued that 'The US has less need of consensus
than we do, [and] is still seared by their experiences with NATO
during the Kosovo conflict'. '[The United States'] current requirement
for high tempo operations is likely to put them outside the maximum
capability capacity and potential of an institution such as NATO.'
The UK, therefore, will have to decide whether it 'follows the
US's single-minded aim to finish Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda,
and/or to involve ourselves in creating the conditions for nation-building
or reconstruction as well'. CDS pointed out that the UK cannot
do everything with the resources at its disposal and will have
to make choices about what role it fulfills: 'We will have to
decide soon whether we make a commitment to a broader campaignwidening
the waror make a longer term commitment to Afghanistan'.
A more active role in operations elsewhere will threaten the UK's
ability to run concurrent operations. More fundamentally, CDS
highlighted the need, as the UK sees it
... to attack the causes, not the symptoms of terrorism.
To do this, we need to isolate the terrorist by making it more
attractive for his supporters to seek peace. We need to address
the hearts and minds of the population, offer effective humanitarian
assistance, run efficient information and support operations,
gain intelligence, set the framework as we did in Kosovo, and
conduct deep operations to strike the terrorist by attritional
or other means. We have done much of this already, and are now
moving from operations against al Qaeda ... towards a focus on
restructuring and reintegrating Afghanistan.
He recognised that as the fight against terrorism
moves on beyond Afghanistan, coalitions will change shape with
some members hardening their resolve and others 'wobbling', and
that we should expect to see the emergence of more fluid 'agile
partnerships' which will change their composition as the conflict
87. We agree that terrorism cannot be defeated by
force alone. It feeds on the grievances of exploited and dispossessed
people. Tackling global inequalities and injustices must be part
of a long term strategy to starve terrorist groups of their support.
It is encouraging that agreement has been reached on an interim
government for Afghanistan. We note also that our colleagues on
the International Development Committee have been examining the
humanitarian relief effort in Afghanistan and the surrounding
88. The Government's response to the attacks of 11
September has also included steps to increase security in the
UK itself. Emergency legislation has been introduced in the form
of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill. Both the Home
Affairs Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights have
published reports on the wider issues raised. We have separately
examined those sections of that bill which relate to the Ministry
of Defence police (MDP).
89. Practical measures have been taken at airports,
at other points of entry and to defend key points in our critical
infrastructure. On 14 September the Secretary of State for Defence
outlined to the House the steps which the MoD had taken as an
Recognising that no specific warning was given of
terrorist attacks in the United States, we immediately strengthened
the position of key elements of our armed forces. This included
reducing the notice to move of military personnel who would assist
the police, if necessary, in guarding our airports. Ground-based
air defence assets were also placed at a higher state of readiness
in case they were required to guard key economic, governmental
and strategic assets throughout the UK. Air defence aircraft of
the Royal Air Force are constantly at a state of high readiness.
Their role is to deter, to deflect and ultimately to destroy any
threat from the skies.
The Policy Director told us in early November that
'air defence assets are in place and at readiness to respond to
a threat with RAF F3 Tornado fighters and a command and control
system is in place to take the necessary decisions'.
He did not wish to go into further details in public. These measures
are a first line of defence not only for our cities, but also
for other places that might become targets. Attention has particularly
focussed on the perceived vulnerability of nuclear installations.
France has reportedly deployed surface-to-air missiles to protect
Europe's largest nuclear waste processing plant at La Hague.
90. These steps against an airborne threat are important,
but an easier and more effective attack might be made at ground
level. The MDP, during our inquiry into the Anti-terrorism Crime
and Security Bill, told us that the extension to their powers
under the new legislation will enable them to respond to the changed
circumstances of an 'uncertain and heightened threat' by operating
further out from the defence estate. Given the increased possibility
of suicide attacks, the MDP now believe that if a terrorist reached
a military establishment which they are protecting, he would have
Where previously there was a view that we could defend
it from the wire and from the gate with some surveillance outside
... now we have to think that a terrorist might launch an unprovoked,
unwarned attack from an area some way off the base itself. ...
Our activities therefore take us further out ... That means we
have to be able to act outside the normal MoD property ...
The example of a hijacked petrol tanker driven by
a suicide attacker was given as one of the potential threats the
MDP now needs to defend against.
Certain civil establishments, of course, are as likely to face
a threat of this kind as military ones.
And the MoD has embarked on what the Secretary of
State has called 'a new chapter to the Strategic Defence Review.'