Budgetary Constraints Could Derail Efforts to Realign Britain’s Defense Strategy

Budgetary Constraints Could Derail Efforts to Realign Britain’s Defense Strategy

As British troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the U.K. must make hard choices ahead of its forthcoming Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR), due for release in the months following the U.K.’s May 2015 general election. Yet efforts to realign Britain’s defense strategy as part of this process are likely to be constrained once again by financial considerations and the need to maintain continuity in certain areas. Overcoming these tensions will therefore require sound judgment in the coming months. Otherwise, Britain could be left with a strategically incoherent defense posture insufficient to meet the demands of the post-Afghanistan operating environment.

The transfer of command of U.K. military operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand province earlier this month to the U.S.-led Regional Command Southwest marked the latest phase in Britain’s redeployment of combat forces from the country—a process due to be completed by the end of 2014. Speaking a few months ago at Camp Bastion, the U.K.’s principal military base in Helmand, British Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that the troops could return home with their heads held high, in the knowledge that their mission was accomplished.

Nevertheless, Britain’s contribution to the mission in Afghanistan, namely helping the Afghan government develop its ability to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists, has been costly. Since the U.K. first deployed troops to the country in 2001, 448 British service personnel have lost their lives there. By the end of 2014, it is expected that Britain will have spent roughly $42 billion on the campaign. These heavy human and financial costs have fueled skepticism among the British public about the benefits of embarking upon future military campaigns and have left their elected officials reluctant to take on new defense commitments—as was made apparent in August 2013, when parliament voted against military intervention in Syria.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article as well as three free articles per month. You'll also receive our free email newsletter to stay up to date on all our coverage:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having your own personal researcher and analyst for news and events around the globe. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 15,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • Your choice of weekly region-specific newsletters, delivered to your inbox.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review