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UK armed forces less ready for war than ever, report shows

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, July 22, IRNA
Britain's armed forces are less ready to deploy troops to the front line to fight a war than at any time on record, according to the latest annual report from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The ability of the UK's military to respond to challenges beyond Iraq and Afghanistan was found to have further deteriorated over the past year, rendering the armed forces unable to meet the government's strategic objectives.

The government deems Afghanistan and Iraq to be its "overriding defence priority" but the report shows that the military has neither the resources nor the structure to sustain these operations indefinitely.

The ability to fight on two fronts has come at the expense of the armed forces' readiness to do other things, including training for large-scale wars.

Almost 60 per cent of the military reported serious or critical obstacles to reasonably rapid deployment on any new missions, underlining the extent which current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are compromising the ability to deal with other contingencies.

The report concluded that "the overall readiness of the force structure continued to deteriorate throughout the year," meaning it was impossible to meet defence targets set as part of the 2004 three-year government spending review.

It comes after repeated warnings from both the military and politicians about British troops being over-stretched by the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Conservatives' shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said that Britain's army of less than 100,000 soldiers was not "big enough" to meet the government's "ever increasing demands".

"This has resulted in an increasingly dangerous national security situation where our Armed Forces are unable to react to the unexpected," Fox warned.

Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said the report highlighted the "devastating long-term impact of overstretch" from fighting on two fronts and leaves Britain "with almost no capacity to react to unexpected security threats to the nation." The report coincides with MPs warning the government not to withdraw from Iraq prematurely, even though the security situation was said to have been transformed in Basra in the last six months.

"The UK government must ensure that it continues to provide support to the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) to ensure that the progress which has been made is not lost and that Basra does not slip back into instability," the all-party Defence Committee said.

The parliamentary committee said that the UK had "an opportunity to maintain substantial position of influence for the common good in southern Iraq, if we can commit the military capacity to do so."


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