Tuesday, August 3, 1999 Published at 01:25 GMT 02:25 UK
UK troops 'overstretched'
The army is said to have problems retaining trained staff
The UK's most senior soldier has said the Army is being stretched too thinly, prompting sharp cuts in troop levels in Kosovo and Bosnia, according to a newspaper interview.
General Sir Roger Wheeler, Chief of the General Staff, told The Times that manpower pressures are pushing the government to reduce its troops in the UK's Balkan peacekeeping commitment. He said this was to ensure that the Army remains "sustainable".
Defence Secretary George Robertson said in July that the troops in Kosovo were being reduced from more than 11,000 to 5,000 by the end of the year, and the Bosnia deployment to 2,000 soldiers by the end of the year.
Sir Roger told the newspaper this would remain a "long-term commitment".
Renewed tension in Northern Ireland had further increased the pressure on the Army, and "while the terrorists retain their capability - and there's no decommissioning - we have to do the same".
Military experts warned in June that the UK's armed forces may not be able to take the strain of a prolonged peacekeeping operation in Kosovo.
But it is not just numbers that are low - soldiers' morale is said to have taken a dive with leave being cut short due to lack of numbers.
Paul Beaver, spokesman for Jane's Defence Weekly, told BBC News Online in May that a major complaint is that many soldiers are not seeing enough of their spouses and children.
He said they are "rushed from one six-month assignment to the next, with only a fortnight off in between".