Monday, May 29, 2006

MOD challenged on desertion rates

Sixty attacks a month on UK troops as 1000 desert
British forces in Iraq have been attacked by insurgents nearly 60 times a month since the start of the year, figures released to the Commons have revealed. The figures for the first four months of 2006 show a 26 per cent increase in attacks, compared to 2005. The sharp increase is expected to prompt more calls for the troops to be pulled out quickly rather than staying on in the hope that the violence can be controlled.

The revelation coincides with a report, denied by the Ministry of Defence, of a sharp increase in the number of British soldiers who have been absent without leave (awol) for more than a month and who may have deserted to escape the long running Iraq conflict. The BBC reported that more than 1000 soldiers had deserted for more than 30 days since Iraq was invaded in 2003, and that about 900 had not been found. In 2005, 377 went awol and are still missing.

The Ministry of Defence has denied that Iraq had caused a sharp increase in the number of soldiers deserting or going absent without leave. It claimed that the numbers going awol in 2004-05 were the lowest since 2001.