UK sending ‘half-trained’ troops to Afghanistan

The Times newspaper said those being rushed to the battlefields affect infantry battalions being earmarked to fight in the country next year.

One senior defence source was quoted saying that the new recruits would not be properly qualified to fight since they would receive only 50 per cent of the basic training usually given to qualified combat infantrymen.

“I would be very nervous of having to deploy with this limited level of expertise and experience in the frontline companies,” the source said. He also warned that such a scheme could undermine the reputation of the Army.

Normally soldiers being prepared for Afghanistan spend 26-28 weeks on army combat infantry course, but to cope with the manpower shortages the course would be cut to 14 weeks.

At the latest official count, Britain had a total of 13,480 troops deployed on overseas operation on January 14, including 6,800 in Afghanistan. This is 1,000 troops short of the government’s pledge to commit 7,800 troops until at least 2009.

There has been rising concern that the UK army has become overstretched due to the war also in Iraq. The current figure of the trained strength is also 98,160, more than 3,000 short of its target of 101,800 soldiers.

On Monday, the Defence Select Committee warned, the huge strains on Britain’s armed services were driving out experienced personnel and undermining morale.

The performance of the armed forces was “deteriorating” after five years of running at full stretch in Afghanistan and Iraq, it said.

In response to the latest report, the Ministry of Defence in London was quoted saying that there was “no question of training being compromised.”

“We have adapted our training in terms of our operational requirement and we are taking action in terms of the manning challenges,” a spokesman said.