THIS week a group of senior retired chiefs of the armed services made an appeal for extra funding for British forces. They say that maintaining a Brigade of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq is stretching the British army and the Royal Air Force to the bone. At the end of the day we are talking about a deployment of around 14'000 men and women in both countries and this will naturally include supoport staff. What concerns me though is that the British army, RAF and Navy appear to be so short of resources that they are incapable of maintaining a rather limited force. Up until recently 14'000 soldiers were stationed in Northern Ireland and the majority have now been withdrawn. Twenty years ago these two deployments would have been considered to be small overseas forces and forty years ago, they would have been just a drop in the ocean. So why have the armed forces been allowed to become so over-stretched? In some ways perhaps some of the blame lies with the armed service chiefs who should have gone on record earlier and said that they didn´t have the tools to finish the job. The shortage of equipment in the British army is scandalous and some of it doesn´t even appear to work properly. At the same time large sums of the limited defence budget is being spent on new aircraft carriers, the Eurofighter and new destroyers and submarines for the Royal Navy. I would suggest to the Ministry of Defence that they should have a clearer strategy, and one which takes into the present operational requirement. It is time that it was understood that the Cold war is over and there are new strategies which need to be addressed.
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