Sun, Jul 22, 2007 - Page 6 News List

UK memo reports army overextended

AFP , LONDON

The head of the British Army has warned that the country has "almost no capacity to react to the unexpected" because of deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan in a leaked memo reported yesterday.

Sir Richard Dannatt added that reinforcements to deal with emergencies were "now almost non-existent," the Daily Telegraph said.

His analysis is the latest high-level warning that Britain's military is feeling the pinch.

In a note to fellow defense leaders, he said that only around 500 troops were available to deal with, for example, a domestic terrorist attack or a deployment overseas at short notice.

"We now have almost no capability to react to the unexpected," Dannatt, the chief of general staff, reportedly wrote.

"The enduring nature and scale of current operations continues to stretch people."

And earlier this month, an influential committee of lawmakers reportedly said that there were "simply not enough" troops to cope with current deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Britain has more than 6,000 troops in Afghanistan, a figure which will rise to 7,700 this year, and around 5,500 in Iraq.

The public accounts committee claimed that the armed forces were 5,850 personnel, or more than 3 percent, below strength.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said that the armed forces were "working hard" but that the current situation was "manageable."

He added that, earlier this week, the government announced that 500 troops were leaving Iraq and others were being pulled out of Northern Ireland and Bosnia-Hercegovina.

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