Britain needs quick-response capabilities to combat IS threat
LONDON - Britain's military should invest more in drones and elite troops to help counter the threat from the Islamic State group, Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday, calling terrorism one of the "evolving threats" facing the UK.
British defense chiefs are conducting a strategic policy review and Cameron said he has asked them to consider boosting quick-response counterterrorism capabilities such as "spy planes, drones and special forces."
He said the country faced emerging threats, including terrorism, cyberattacks and "an increasingly aggressive Russia."
Britain's military has faced a budget squeeze in recent years as Cameron's government cut public spending. But last week Treasury chief George Osborne committed to spending 2 percent of national income on defense — a NATO target met by few members of the trans-Atlantic alliance.
On Monday, Cameron visited an air force base that is home to Britain's fleet of Reaper drones, which have flown missions over Iraq and Syria as part of the U.S.-led campaign against IS.
Addressing personnel at another base in a hangar of Typhoon fighter jets, Cameron promised to ensure "that we have the drones, spy planes and special forces — the unique capabilities that make sure we can deal with this threat at its source."
British fighter jets have struck targets in Iraq, and Cameron and his ministers have recently suggested the mission could be expanded to Syria.
Such a move could face strong political opposition. Parliament voted in September to attack militants in Iraq, but not Syria. Many lawmakers don't wish to be seen as supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Monday the government wouldn't rush the decision. He said lawmakers would get the chance to vote on Syria strikes "in due course."