Ban on U.S. Military in London Lifted

The U.S. military has lifted a ban on its members going into London that was imposed on Friday.

London no longer out of bounds for US military (FT)

The US has lifted a ban on UK-based military personnel and their families travelling to London in the aftermath of Thursday̢۪s bomb attacks. The move followed criticism from police, politicians and tourism officials in the capital.

Thousands of US military personnel had been ordered to stay away from London and not to go anywhere inside the M25 until further notice. Family members were also encouraged to avoid the capital because of safety fears. Military commanders issued the directive to 10,000 US air force personnel on Friday, the day after the four explosions that killed at least 52 people.

The order appeared to contrast with efforts by British leaders to encourage Londoners to return to normal working life. Ken Livingstone, London̢۪s mayor, turned his normal 35-minute underground journey to City Hall on Monday into a symbol of the capital̢۪s collective defiance. The US directive to its military personnel also sat uncomfortably alongside a statement by US president George W. Bush that the US stands together with Britain in the face of terrorism.


UK defence secretary John Reid said earlier on Tuesday he had been assured that the US embassy was reviewing the directive. “It was given out as a temporary directive in the immediate aftermath of the bombs,†Mr Reid said. “Many British companies were saying the same thing temporarily: don’t put pressure on emergency services, don’t go into the centre of London. … This was a directive that was passed within the first 24 hours of the bombs going off.â€

The criticism the received was quite brutal as this Guardian story makes clear.

“I would have hoped our American allies could show a little more courage,” said Andrew Robathan, a Conservative member of Parliament. The Daily Mail newspaper said in an editorial: “We trust the 4 million Americans who come to London each year are made of sterner stuff than the U.S. Air Force.”

Reid told British Broadcasting Corp. radio that the original decision was “perfectly sensible.” Reid said the first call he received following confirmation of the attack was from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offering “all possible assistance including people coming to London, and some people have done that.” “So it isn’t the case that Americans are somehow running away from this,” Reid said.

The order strikes me as logical in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, for a variety of reasons. I’m glad that it has been lifted, though.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Military Affairs, Terrorism, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Bull says:

    If the US military are so terrified, I suggest they should clear off out of the UK and back to the US.

    A disgusted Brit

  2. JACK ARMY says:

    There’s more to this than simple fear. They are in the military, after all, an institution designed to fight wars. However, Air Force personnel have missions to accomplish and the leadership has a responsibility to ensure that they are capable of performing those missions. Getting several members of the USAF killed in a London bombing could severely degrade the ability of a unit to perform. This is about unit readiness, not fear.

    I didn’t see anything in the articles about non-military US citizens being restricted from London. I did see the US offering all possible assistance, though.

    Let’s be sensible in this emotional time. What wasn’t said in those articles is that those USAF personnel would fight and die in battle if the UK was attacked. Allies do that for each other.

  3. Richard Gardner says:

    The original restriction was valid. I’d say much of the intent was to keep out of the way when the overall status wasn’t known, and to stop a little “disaster tourism.”

    Most of the USAF personnel are stationed at RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall, under 2 hours by train away, and many of the servicemembers would normally be heading into London for the Summer weekend (largely junior folks going clubbing).

    I can imagine the alternaive statement, “they came here to gawk (or party) and got in the way of emergency services.”

    After things settled down, and more was know, the order was lifted.

  4. Anderson says:

    If it’s too dangerous for American servicemen, why wasn’t a warning issued to American tourists as well?

    Our highest goal for our military, to judge from this and from our policy of gunning down Iraqi civilians on a weekly basis, would appear to be “making sure as few as possible get killed.” That is a secondary goal for any military force. The primary mission comes first (hence “primary”), and I’m afraid we’ve been forgetting that in Iraq.

    Our mission would be better achieved with drastically fewer innocent civilians shot up by our troops, even if that means more U.S. dead.

    (Personally, I wouldn’t have favored sacrificing a single American life to “liberate” the Iraqis; people who deserve liberation can generally do it themselves. But, for better or worse, we’re there and we’ve got a mission.)

  5. LJD says:

    A post about protecting American citizens in the U.K., then somehow, a fast-forward to Iraq? I thought this post was about London, not Iraq, but oh well…

    Due to his hysterical barrage of frothing-at-the-mouth criticism, I fail to really get Anderson’s point. The following is telling though:

    “…our policy of gunning down Iraqi civilians on a weekly basis…”
    “Our mission would be better achieved with drastically fewer innocent civilians shot up by our troops, even if that means more U.S. dead.”

    Let’s get this straight:
    1.) We have a “policy” of “gunning down” iraqi civilians.
    2.) To protect them (iraqis), you would rather see more U.S. military casualties?

    During what part of your long, illustrious military career was force protection not a primary mission?