I hope that my right hon. Friend will excuse me if I return to the issue of the attitude of the United States and of the French, but there is a common background. Each country is in the throes of an acrimonious presidential election, and it leads me to the conclusion that statements may be made for political rather than military reasons. If some of the predictions, based on what Mr Panetta has said and has never withdrawn, were to be fulfilled, the
military position of British troops would be substantially altered. Can we be satisfied that both my right hon. Friend and the Secretary of State for Defence are aware of that and are ready to take steps if necessary to protect the interests of British forces?