Britain is at risk of losing the capability to wage major wars as it reaches a crisis point in resources, senior academics have warned MPs.
The stress of constant operations was also leading to a “massive increase” in marital breakdowns with many troops forced into resigning from the services to save their relationships, the Commons defence committee heard.
During a hearing on the recruitment and retention crises facing the Armed Forces, the committee was told by Prof Hew Strachan, Oxford University’s leading military historian, that Britain had now reached the point at which it had to make a serious choice about its future.
Either it had “an adequately resourced” Armed Forces that could fight major wars, or one that could only conduct counter-insurgency and peace-keeping operations.
Given the “nature of current operations” in Iraq and Afghanistan and the “size of resources”, it would be impossible to fight a major war, he said.
Until Britain answered the question of what size and type of Armed Forces it wanted, recruiting and retaining troops was “operating in a vacuum”.
The MPs also heard that the troop numbers on operations were unlikely to reduce for at least four years as the next American president was unlikely to abandon Iraq.