U.S. top brass drop London ban
By Benedict O'ConnorAMERICAN military chiefs have dropped the ban on 10,000 U.S. personnel living in Suffolk travelling to London in the wake of terrorist attacks.
By Benedict O'Connor
AMERICAN military chiefs have dropped the ban on 10,000 U.S. personnel living in Suffolk travelling to London in the wake of terrorist attacks.
The ban on troops from RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall going within the M25 perimeter, first revealed by the East Anglian Daily Times on Monday provoked severe criticism.
However, in the face of increasing political pressure, Major General Mike Gould, 3rd Air Force Commander, announced yesterday the ban had been lifted.
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Maj Gen Gould, the senior U.S. defence officer in Britain, said: “Since the attacks, and through the weekend and even yesterday and today, senior military officials in the U.S. Air Force and in Europe, along with our UK counterparts, have continued to assess the situation down in London.
“We are happy to announce that the commander of the USAF in Europe has decided that the situation in London has stabilised to the point where we are now going to allow military members of the USAF in Europe and their family members to go back to London.”
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Maj Gen Gould expressed his condolences to the families of those involved in the bombings and said the directive had originally been issued to protect U.S. personnel and their families, so as not to add to the congestion in London and not to impede the ongoing investigation and recovery process.
He added: “We will continue to work closely with UK government officials in London and we will continue to join forces with the British people to fight the war on terror.
“Our hearts and feelings go out to the victims and families of the bombings. On behalf of some 75,000 Americans living and working here at the USAF in
Europe, we continue to stand by you on the war on terror.”
Richard Spring, West Suffolk MP, said he was “relieved” the ban had been lifted.
“As soon as the situation became clear the ban should have been rescinded. It does send out the wrong message and I just hope that any damage done to the very close relationship with the American community in Suffolk is quickly repaired and we can continue to work together,” he added.
John Reid, Defence Secretary, said the initial order to forbid U.S. Air Force
personnel from London had been the right one.
“This was a sensible decision when it was taken in the aftermath of the
terrorist atrocities in London last week, but we now want business as usual and the ban has been rescinded,” he added.
“The U.S. stands by our commitment and determination not to let terrorism
Mr Reid also praised the U.S. for its help and offers of assistance in the wake of the bombings. “From the first moment, the U.S. has offered its unstinting support,” he added.
The Defence Secretary said he had received a telephone call from his U.S.
counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, offering back-up from the FBI and numerous other security agencies.
n Military chiefs at the region's two American air bases have expressed their condolences in the wake of the bomb atrocities in London.
Thousands of U.S. forces personnel based at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath added they were “ready and willing” to help the Government after the terrorist attacks.
General Robert Foglesong, USAFE commander, said: “We couldn't be more saddened. Our hearts and thoughts are with those personally involved, as well as their friends and families. Our forces are ready and willing to help the UK government if needed.”
Major General Mike Gould, based at RAF Mildenhall, added: “All U.S. airmen in the UK have been accounted for.
“We're coordinating with the Ministry of Defence Police and US Embassy in London to ensure the security and safety of our airmen and their families.
“We are firmly committed to maintain a robust security posture tailored to the threat assessment and our overall environment across the region.
“On behalf of the 10,000 American men and women who make their home in your great country, I express our deepest condolences.”