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SHORTFALL IN BRIT FORCES.

Byline: By CHRIS HUGHES, Security Correspondent

ARMED forces are under strength and under strain, a government watchdog said yesterday.

Troops are sent on operations more often than they should be under official guidelines and ships, including nuclear submarines, are sailing without their full crew, said the National Audit Office.

The Army, Navy and RAF are a total of 5,170 below strength - 2.8 per cent. Last year 9,200 quit early and recruitment fell amid rows over the Iraq war and bullying at Deepcut barracks.

Meanwhile they were maintaining commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans above the highest level the MoD planned for.

Defence Minister Derek Twigg denied the forces were "overstretched". But Tory Edward Leigh, head of the Commons public accounts committee, said manning was "intolerable" and the forces lacked the personnel to meet demands on them.

Lib Dem spokesman Nick Harvey said: "The consequences of prolonged overstretch could be disastrous." Tory Liam Fox said it was "putting unacceptable pressure on personnel and families".
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 3, 2006
Words:167
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