November 21, 2009 / 3:45 PM / 10 years ago

UK's Conservatives want army pull-out from Germany

* Opposition calls for British troop withdrawal from Germany

* Wants strategic overhaul of NATO

LONDON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Britain should withdraw its army from Germany so it can take on "expeditionary roles" elsewhere under a strategic NATO overhaul, the British opposition defence spokesman said in a newspaper interview on Saturday.

Liam Fox told the Daily Telegraph Britain’s 25,000-strong military presence on the Rhine "wasn’t necessary" any longer now the security threat once posed by the Soviet regime was over.

The Conservatives are currently predicted to win a parliamentary election that has to be held within six months.

The suggested pull-out more than 60 years after World War Two should be part of a fundamental reorganisation of NATO forces to free troops from nations such as Britain and France for operations outside Europe, he said.

Britain currently has 9,000 troops in Afghanistan in a NATO force fighting Taliban insurgents. Germany has some 4,300 soldiers in Afghanistan and France more than 3,000.

But Germany and some European nations, unlike Britain and France, do not allow their troops to mount some operations or operate in the more volatile and dangerous south of Afghanistan.

"We can either hammer on about burden sharing, or we can start looking at what countries will be able to do within their political, constitutional and military constraints," Fox said.

"If other countries are willing to take up roles in continental defence, that leaves Britain and France able to take on expeditionary roles," he said.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence said that troop numbers had already been drawn down in Germany "to reflect the changed strategic context" since the end of the Cold War.

Fox was also quoted as warning against giving a timetable for withdrawal in Afghanistan, because it would "tell our allies that we quit if the going gets tough and it says to our enemies that they may be able to outlast us."

The ruling Labour Party declined to comment. (Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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