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Soldier numbers in British army dip to historic lows: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo shows members of the British armed forces. (AFP photo)

The number of soldiers in the British army has plunged to some of the lowest levels seen in the history, a new report shows, as the force struggles with a years-long recruitment problem.

The Daily Express said in a Sunday report that almost all regiments and units of the British army, including the guards dedicated to the protection of the country’s monarch, were suffering from acute staffing crises.

The report said the overall number of troops in the UK military dropped for the eighth year in a row in January to 75,880, adding that commanders were projecting a shortfall of more than 6,000 soldiers by next year, when figures are expected to stand at 82,000 soldiers.

It described the overall picture of the army recruitment as “devastating”, adding that military forces had repeatedly failed both in retaining demoralized, skeptical and under-utilized troops and in recruiting enough new ones to replace them.

The report said even the Household Cavalry and the Brigade of Guards, which is responsible for protecting the British Queen and the Royal Palaces, were already overstretched and needed hundreds of men.

Britain’s flagship Special Air Service (SAS), known for its role in sensitive operations such as covert reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, direct action and hostage rescue, is short of 110 officers, it said.

The findings come amid reports that many serving British soldiers are leaving over various problems, including mental strains imposed on them as a result of bad treatment in the barracks. Many have also quit after missions in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade, where they suffered severe physical and mental injuries.

Studies by the British parliament and the Ministry of Defense show new recruits have also decided to give up in the midst of the admission process due to numerous administrative difficulties.

That comes as government and military officials claim they have been successful in attracting socially odd groups of the youth, including internet addicts and video gamers, as part of a controversial scheme to fill the staffing gaps in the army.

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