UK to boost special forces to help terrorism fight

LONDON Sun Apr 26, 2009 5:38pm BST

British soldiers patrol in Musa Qala, Helmand province. March 28,2009. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

British soldiers patrol in Musa Qala, Helmand province. March 28,2009.

Credit: Reuters/Omar Sobhani

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will boost spending on its special forces as part of a major military review to help combat terror networks that challenge its security, Defence Secretary John Hutton will say on Monday.

A "rebalancing of investment in equipment and people" would be needed over the next 10 years, Hutton will tell a counter-terrorism conference in London, according to extracts of the speech released by his ministry.

Special forces such as the Special Air Service (SAS) will receive greater investment to help them "get deep behind enemy lines to disrupt networks of terror that threaten our national security."

The need for change came after a review of combat tactics encountered by British and U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the readiness of Islamist militants to sacrifice children in ambushes and use women as suicide bombers "are proof that traditional deterrents do not work," according to Hutton.

The British official met U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates in Washington last month to discuss the lessons learnt in the conflict, and Hutton said he expected deep and wide-ranging changes to both nations' armed forces.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said on Sunday it was too early to determine whether cuts would be made elsewhere, but doubts surround Britain's commitment to the Eurofighter combat jet, a project involving Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel intervened to try and persuade Prime Minister Gordon Brown to lift his government's opposition to a roughly $10 billion (6.8 billion pounds) deal to build Eurofighter jets, European defence sources said.

Britain has also seen a series of delays to other military programmes in recent years, including shelving two new aircraft carriers for up to two years.

(Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Jon Boyle)