Ex-forces chief in front-line troops cuts warning

British soldiers in Afghanistan (file picture)
Image caption The regular Army is being cut from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020

Cuts in front-line troops should be put on hold until more reservists are recruited, a former head of Britain's armed forces has said.

Field Marshal Lord Bramall told the Sunday Telegraph there was a "terrible question mark" over whether enough reservists would be found.

The government wants to expand the Reserve Force, formerly the TA, to 30,000 by 2018 to help cover Army cuts.

On Friday the MoD said it was committed to delivering "challenging" targets.

Lord Bramall - who led the Army as chief of general staff during the Falklands War and was later promoted to chief of defence staff - said the armed forces were having to "make the best of" defence cuts that were "predominantly driven by finance".

"The logical thing is you do not run [front-line troops] down until you achieve the build-up of reserves but finance is still driving the agenda," he said.

Lord Bramall also told the paper the Royal Navy did not have enough ships to carry out "everyday duties of projecting influence, tackling piracy and all the other things they have to do all over the world".

Under government plans the regular Army is being cut from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020, while the Reserve Force is being expanded from 19,000 to 30,000.

On Friday, former defence secretary Liam Fox said plans to recruit more Army reservists might have to be reversed if work commitments meant they were not as easy to deploy at speed as regular soldiers.

In August confidential memos seen by the Sunday Times suggested the Army Reserve looked set to fall well short of its target for recruiting new members this year.

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