By Beatrice Thomas
Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond says the draw down of troops in Afghanistan means it needs new options train forces in desert warfare
The UK is looking into options to establish a “more permanent” military facility in the Gulf region, according to Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond, it was reported.
At a press briefing in Doha, Hammond was quoted as saying that as the UK withdraws troops from combat in Afghanistan, where deployments provided them with training, “we have to think through how we will train our forces in desert warfare, in hot-conditions’ combat in the future”.
“Certainly one of the options is to establish a more permanent facility, somewhere in the Gulf,” he was quoted as saying in the Gulf Times.
The US has military bases in Qatar and Bahrain; while France has a base in Abu Dhabi.
Hammond said the UK had not decided on a GCC country to establish a permanent base.
“It’s a possibility that we are looking at and we’re interested to discuss how to take that forward…We haven’t decided for sure to do this yet, but certainly it’s one of the options we are looking at,” he said.
Hammond also reportedly said that the interest from the west in the region was only to ensure peace and stability.
“The West is crucially dependent on a stable energy market above all else,” he said. “Our economic recovery is fragile. Anything that calls for a spike in the oil price would derail it.
“The mostly likely scenario to cause that up spike is a surge in tension in this region, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz. It is very much in our interest to have a stable situation in the Gulf. That is why Western countries are prepared to invest so much in this region and supporting the Gulf states to maintain that stability.”
However, Hammond declined to comment on the diplomatic dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
“I don’t think it is for outsiders to get involved in these disagreements. These are disagreements between friends, between countries whose fundamental interests are aligned and who fundamentally face the same challenges. I’m sure that they will be resolved in a timely manner, so that the good and growing co-operation in the GCC can be resumed,” he said.