Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

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".

[ image: Sir Roger:
Sir Roger: "The Army is 6,000 under-strength"
He said the UK's readiness to cope with various security threats risked being compromised by the 96,000-strong Army being overstretched.

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.

[ image: A UK Harrier pilot prepares for take-off]
A UK Harrier pilot prepares for take-off
A shortfall in military men and women may lead to reinforcements from the territorial army, but it too has undergone radical cuts over the past few years.

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".

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

04 Jun 99 | UK
Can British forces take the strain?

15 May 99 | UK
Crack troops prepare for Kosovo

20 Apr 99 | UK
UK military tightens its belt in the Balkans

21 Apr 99 | UK Politics
Pay cut for UK troops in Balkans

17 Nov 98 | UK Politics
TA cuts confirmed

Internet Links

British Army

Royal Air Force

Royal Navy

Kosovo latest news - Ministry of Defence

Jane's Defence Weekly

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online