LONDON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Women could assume combat roles in the British military by 2016, the U.K. secretary of defense said Friday.
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon commented on a 29-page Defense Ministry report, issued earlier in December, which said a current ban on women serving in close combat roles called for additional research regarding the physical demands of the duties. He told the British Broadcasting Corp. Radio 4 that roles in the military "should be determined by ability and not gender," adding he intends to "open up combat roles to women" in 2016.
"The review makes clear that there's no question mark over the cohesion of the unit, the overall effectiveness of the unit. Women can fight just as effectively as men."
Although 70 percent of positions in the British army are open to women, they cannot currently serve in the British army's infantry or armored divisions. Women presently comprise 10 percent of Britain's armed forces.
Gen. Sir Nicolas Carter, British Chief of the General Staff, commented that military operations in Afghanistan indicated there could be "serious psychological risk to women" serving in combat roles, and Gen. Sir Nicholas Houghton, Chief of the Defense Staff, said, "I look forward to the prospect of opening ground close combat roles to women, but we have to look at this in a responsible way. Our aim must be to maximize the use of talent without compromising our standards or undermining capability."