More British citizens joined the jihad in Syria and Iraq than signed up for the Army Reserves over the last twelve months, according to the MailOnline. Whilst “several hundred” have gone to fight for militants in the Middle East, only 170 have enlisted for the British Army Reserves despite a major recruitment campaign.
Foreign Secretary William Hague believes that as many as 400 Brits have gone to fight alongside the jihadists of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis). Their activities are now a major concern for the government, as they are likely to return to the UK radicalised and with military training. It is widely believed that these British militants will continue their ‘struggle’ when they get back to the United Kingdom.
In a statement to the House of Commons on Syria and Iraq yesterday Mr Hague said: “As I have previously told this House, we estimate the number of UK-linked individuals fighting in Syria to include approximately 400 British nationals and other UK-linked individuals who could present a particular risk should they return to the UK.”
Shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker said that scale of jihadists from Britain was humiliating for the country because it outstripped the number of Army Reserve volunteers. Mr Coaker said: “The government’s own figures show more UK citizens are joining ISIS than signing up for the Armed Forces Reserves. This is shameful, embarrassing and will cause deep concern.
“We need to see action to ensure recruitment to the Armed Forces meets the targets set. Otherwise, Britain will be left with a dangerous capability gap.”
In the whole of 2013 the number of British Army reservists actually fell by 50 to 19,150 with only 170 new recruits coming in. Under normal circumstances this decline would be a blow but because of the government’s policy to rely much more on the reservists it is catastrophic.
The Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond has recently made large numbers of full time soldiers redundant and hopes to replace them with part timers. The target is to have 35,000 reservists by 2018, a level that seems unattainable given this year’s performance.
News that the jihadists are recruiting more British people than the Army will once again raise concerns that the strategy of bringing in part time soldiers is a risk to national security. Ministers are accused of undermining the military by starving it of funds and downplaying the important role of full time personnel.
Over a thousand regular soldiers have been made redundant in the latest round of cuts. In previous rounds the Royal Air Force search and rescue group was privatised, meaning that Prince William had to leave the RAF to avoid the embarrassment of being made redundant.