TA to defend key targets from terrorists

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The Independent Online

Proposals for an expanded role for the part–time soldiers of the Territorial Army defending key installations from terrorist attack will be unveiled today.

The plans – contained in a Ministry of Defence discussion paper – form part of the "rebalancing" of the Armed Forces' capabilities announced by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon following the September 11 attacks.

The document sets out the MoD's current thinking on the measures needed to combat the increased threat of international terrorism and will provide the basis of a "new chapter" to the 1998 Strategic Defence Review.

The MoD has said that air defences have already been strengthened to counter the threat of a civilian airliner being hijacked in a suicide attack.

As well as an enhanced role for the TA in so–called "homeland defence", Mr Hoon has already made clear the new chapter will lay even greater emphasis on "agile and adaptable" armed forces capable of deploying around the world at short notice.

In a keynote speech last December, he said Britain needed to be able to take the war against terrorism to countries which "support, nurture and direct" terrorists organisations.

As part of the review, officials have been looking at expanding the number of highly mobile troops like the Paras and the Royal Marines – training some infantry units to play a similar role.

The review has involved five main strands: the changed military environment since September 11, international relations and defence diplomacy, homeland security, conventional military operations and special operations.

Each strand was headed by a two–star officer or equivalent ranking civilian official from the MOD.

The need for an urgent response means that officials hope that the review will be completed by April.

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