Overstretched, overwhelmed and over there

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  1. Britain's armed forces
    Overstretched, overwhelmed and over there

    Jan 29th 2009
    From The Economist print edition

    Seven years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have exposed Britain’s military failings. It can and must do better


    EVERY year but one since the end of the second world war British soldiers have died in action in some corner of the world. Britain no longer has an empire, but it still does a lot of fighting and keeping the peace. Britons are proud of their armed forces. What makes them good is, in part, the experience of fighting and losing men, and they have certainly done a lot of both in Iraq and Afghanistan. But as well as hardening soldiers, wars expose military weaknesses. British forces are overstretched and have struggled to adapt to modern counter-insurgency campaigns. The country’s most important allies, the Americans, are questioning Britain’s commitment and military performance (see article).

    Britain was seen to give up the fight in Iraq just as America acted to stem the bloodbath. British troops are due to leave Iraq this summer, but in Afghanistan the military effort is faltering. President Barack Obama sees Afghanistan as his military priority; he is likely to pour in more resources than George Bush did with the “surge” in Iraq. But British commanders say their forces are already under “unacceptable” strain.
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