Troop Cuts Could Mean 'Limited Ability To Respond To Events', Former Commander Says

A former commander of British personnel in Iraq and Kosovo has told Forces News he is worried the Army could be set to lose thousands of troops as a result of the Integrated Review.

Major General (Ret’d) Tim Cross said he fears as many as 10,000 troops could go.

Drawing from his experience in 2006, he said: "We found ourselves in a position where we could not sustain proper operations in Iraq and proper operations in Afghanistan."

He added the Army "did not have enough mass to be able to do both of these operations at the same time".

"Clearly, if we cut the force [and] the size of the Army by another 10,000 or so, we will find ourselves with a limited ability to respond to events," Maj Gen Cross said.

The Integrated Review, launched in February last year, was billed by the Prime Minister as the "biggest review of our foreign, defence, security and development policy since the end of the Cold War".

It is set to be published next month after being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

With just weeks until the findings of the review are announced, there are some fears that wrong decisions are already being made.

Some are also concerned about a limited influence or usefulness to organisations like NATO and allies like the United States.

NATO alliance flags seen to the left of its star sculpture outside HQ in Brussels 061120 CREDIT NATO TV
Some experts fear troops cuts could mean limited influence on NATO or other allies (Picture: NATO TV).

Malcolm Chalmers, Deputy Director-General at the Royal United Services Institute, said the Integrated Review should say that "[a] Helmand-type occupation mission is no longer within the remit of our Army".

"We can’t do something of that scale again," he added.

Instead, Mr Chalmers said: "It’s a higher priority to have an agile force working globally, but mainly in Europe and its neighbourhood against capable opponents."

Maj Gen Cross also spoke about the threat posed by some nations and the need for defence to keep up with new technology.

"People have described the Russian threat as being like bad weather, whereas the Chinese threat is the equivalent of climate change – in other words, it's significantly different and I agree with that," Maj Gen Cross told Forces News.

He added: "We are in a world now where the traditional domains of military operations – of land, sea and air – have been joined by cyber and space and a lot of new technologies that have emerged over the last few years.

"We need to operate in all of those five domains in an integrated way which is what this review is trying to look at."

A British soldier on patrol in Mali (Picture: MOD).
A British soldier on patrol in Mali (Picture: MOD).

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "Last November the Prime Minister announced the biggest increase to Defence spending since the Cold War.

"This will underpin the modernisation of the Armed Forces following the conclusions of the Integrated Review.

"As threats change our Armed Forces must change & they are being redesigned to confront future threats, not re-fight old wars.

"The Armed Forces will be fully staffed and equipped to confront those threats, but the IR is not yet complete and any such reporting is merely speculation."

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