View Full Version : War Blamed As 6,000 Quit Territorial Army

10-29-2005, 10:23 PM
War blamed as 6,000 quit Territorial Army


Michael Smith

THE Territorial Army (TA) is suffering a manning crisis with more than 6,000 soldiers quitting in the past year because of the war in Iraq.

A £3m television advertising campaign has flopped, bringing in fewer than 600 recruits, and, at 35,000, the strength of the TA has dropped to its lowest point since it was founded in 1907. This is more than 6,000 below its required strength of 41,610.

Ministers admit the real figures are even worse — only 24,000 troops are fully trained and in practice only 12,000 TA soldiers are now available to back up the regular army on operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.

The Ministry of Defence has repeatedly denied that the TA was in trouble as a result of Iraq, but the figures released to parliament last week show the situation is far worse than previously claimed.

Don Touhig, a junior defence minister, told MPs in a series of answers to written questions that the numbers of soldiers leaving the TA had more than quadrupled in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq war in 2003.

Before the invasion the numbers leaving were steady at about 150 a month, keeping the strength of the TA relatively stable, but as soldiers started coming back from the war in October 2003 they began to leave in droves.

Over the next six months, the numbers leaving quadrupled to more than 600 a month and although the figure has dropped slightly since, it is still running at an average of 540, well over three times the pre-war figures.

The Iraq war also necessitated the first compulsory call-up of reservists from all three services since the Korean war in the 1950s with 12,580 mobilised and five reservists among the 97 killed so far.

The shortages come as General George Casey, the US commander in Iraq, expressed concern at the lack of troops to patrol the border between the British sector and Iran.

His comments follow the refusal of John Reid, the defence secretary, to allow military commanders to increase the number of British troops in southern Iraq by 25%.

Major-General Rob Fulton, the British commander in the south, asked for the 2,000 extra troops to mount a border surveillance operation, senior defence sources said.

But it was refused for what senior commanders believe were political reasons with Reid willing to sanction only the addition of fewer than 200 extra troops.

The government’s refusal to increase troop numbers amid an increase in insurgent attacks is in stark contrast to the American position.

Casey has been given another 23,000 troops in recent weeks, raising American troop numbers to 161,000, the highest level in Iraq at any one time since the war began.

British policy in southern Iraq is to use the new Iraqi army to patrol the border while UK troops are held in reserve. The Iraqis, however, have proved unable to prevent incursions by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the sources said.

A British soldier from the Nato-led peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan was killed and five were wounded yesterday in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, writes Michael Smith.

The Ministry of Defence said the soldiers were travelling between two bases when they came under fire. Local police said the soldiers were shot at by four men with assault rifles. The dead man, who has not been named, was from the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry. He is the fifth British serviceman to die in Afghanistan.

The base the men were travelling from belongs to a “hearts and minds” mission helping disarm militias and build democratic institutions. John Reid, the defence secretary, said: “My thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of the soldier tragically killed.”