The police have primacy in the detection and prosecution of criminal activity undertaken in the UK by terrorists and their sympathisers and in the maintenance of public safety. The armed forces can and do provide support to the police, at their request, using specialist military capabilities (for example through bomb disposal). The permanent deployment since 1969 of the armed forces in support of the police in Northern Ireland has, for example, been an essential element in delivering the improved security situation seen in recent years.
Overseas, the armed forces continue to play a key role as part of the cross-Government and international effort to counter the terrorist threat. Building the counter-terrorist capacity of friends and allies is an integral part of the Government’s strategy addressing the terrorist threat. Conflict prevention, peace support operations and defence diplomacy can all assist in prevention by tackling some of the underlying causes of terrorism.
Both at home and overseas, our armed forces can therefore play an important role in pursuing terrorists and those who support them but there is no military solution to the terrorist threat. Irrespective of location, the response must be wide-ranging and include respect for the rule of law, international obligations, and human rights, all of which are threatened by the activities of terrorists.