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Training cut for Afghan-bound recruits


London : Nearly 1,000 new British Army recruits could have their combat training halved to meet a shortage of troops available to deploy to Afghanistan, it was reported here Thursday.
Under plans being considered by the Army, some newly-enlisted soldiers would spend just 14 weeks on a combat infantry course instead of the normal 26-28 weeks, according to The Times newspaper.

The move has been proposed because all of the battalions due to replace 52 Brigade in Afghanistan next year are currently at least 100 soldiers below required strength, the paper said.

An unnamed senior defence source told The Times “I would be very nervous of having to deploy with this limited level of expertise and experience in the frontline companies.” Last December, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged that UK force levels in Afghanistan would remain at 7,800 troops.

The current British military commitment to the country technically ends in October 2009, but the Government has insisted it will be involved for the “long term.” The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) would not comment in detail on the report in The Times, although it admitted training had been “adapted.” An MoD spokesman said “There is 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.” An influential group of MPs warned last Monday that the huge strains on Britain’s armed services were driving out experienced personnel and undermining morale.

The Parliamentary Defence Committee said the forces’ performance was “deteriorating” after five years of running at full stretch in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It warned that recruitment continued to be a problem for the military, with neither the Army nor the Royal Air Force likely to meet their target strengths this year.