Agence France-Presse – 2004-12-23 09:10:58
LONDON (December 19, 2004) — Senior British army commanders believe popular opposition to the war in Iraq has worsened existing problems in recruiting young people for the armed forces, a newspaper reported Sunday.
“The anti-war movement is exacerbating our recruitment problems,” one senior source told the The Observer. “The effects have been particularly noticeable in Scotland, but are spreading to the north of England and we’re beginning to see it as well in the west,” according to the source who was not named.
Senior officers also blame the recruitment crisis on social changes, including a more mobile workforce, greater access to further education and a change in the expectations of young people, The Observer said.
However, they said it has been worsened by an anti-war movement led by parents who have lost sons in Iraq and supported by celebrities and political figures, according to The Observer. Other sources have reported parents refusing to sign consent forms for junior soldiers to sign up, the newspaper said.
In some cases, local officials who have strong anti-war sentiments are also refusing permission for recruitment officers to put up stands at certain venues, it added.
New figures reveal that the number of recruits joining Scotland’s six regiments has fallen sharply this year, it said. Problems with recruitment was one of the reasons given to justify the controversial decision to merge Scotland’s regiments into one super regiment, it said.
Thousands of campaigners marched in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh to the protest the merger plans.
A source in one of Scotland’s regiments dismissed claims that there was a recruitment crisis. “Some of the regiments have had their recruitment targets halved by the Ministry of Defence as part of their plans to save money on wages and training,” the source said.
Another military source told the newspaper that he expected the anti-war movement to have a more significant impact on the Territorial Army, a force of volunteer reservists. “People join the Territorials for a hobby,” he said, adding they don’t expect to end up in Iraq and take casualties.
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