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Monday, August 14, 2006

UKs Iraq: DESERTION RATE HAS DOUBLED SINCE START OF WAR IN IRAQ

The number of soldiers dismissed from the army for desertion or classified as long-term absent without leave (Awol) has more than doubled since the start of the Iraq war three years ago.

Times On Line-UK
The Sunday Times
By: Michael Smith
August 13, 2006

New figures released by the Ministry of Defence last week show that 2,030 soldiers went missing from their units between 2003 and 2005 and were later dismissed by the service. A further 740 are on the run but have not yet been kicked out.

Over the previous three years there were 1,130 dismissals.

Military Families Against the War, the organisation set up by parents of soldiers killed in Iraq, said the figures were a clear reflection of disenchantment brought about by the war.

Rose Gentle, a spokewoman for the group, whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq, said: "Half of these boys are little more than kids. They've not got the right equipment. They see their friends killed. It's affected a lot of them mentally. That's why they're not going back."

Rather than finding the deserters, the army tends simply to write off the missing soldiers and dismiss them in their absence. The new figures show that only 11 have been court-martialled since the war began.

"There can now be no doubt about the serious impact of the disastrous war and occupation of Iraq," said Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman. "With demanding commitments in a number of theatres the army is already overstrectched. We cannot afford to lose soldiers at such a rate."

The number of soldiers dismissed each year for going Awol indefinitely, effectively deserting, averaged 375 in the three years preceding the war. It rose to 495 in 2003 and to 815 in 2004 and was 720 last year.

The total number of Awol soldiers has remained relatively stable despite the war but the number going Awol indefinitely has increased. A soldier who fails to report to his unit but intends to return is deemed to be Awol, a less serious offence than desertion.

Most go Awol for personal domestic reasons as a break-up with a girlfriend, or to avoid an exercise, and return to their units within days.

Soldiers who go absent indefinitely or who go absent while serving overseas are deemed to have deserted. The army's land command headquarters, which is responsible for equipping troops, is facing budget cuts of more than 40M pounds over the next eight months, according to a financial report ordered by the incoming chief of the general staff, Sir Richard Dannatt.

Tanks, missile systems and artillery will have repair budgets slashed. Bases will have to close and military exercises may be canceled.






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