LONDON (AFP) – More than 4,000 soldiers were being told on Tuesday that they have lost their jobs in the latest round of army cuts, with more still to come, the Ministry of Defence said.
The redundancies come on the same day that Afghan forces took charge of security across the country, assuming control from British, US and other foreign forces.
Some 4,480 soldiers will be told by their commanding officers that they are being made redundant, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
Of those, 84 percent had applied for voluntary redundancy, while the remaining 16 percent, or 715 soldiers, face the compulsory loss of their jobs.
The ministry's statement said that yet more cuts would be required.
"The Army will need to make further reductions to reach its final strength target of 82,000," it said.
"It is likely that this will require a further tranche for Army personnel and a small number of medical and dental personnel from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force."
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "It is with great regret that we have had to make redundancies to deliver the reduction in the size of the Armed Forces, but unfortunately they were unavoidable due to the size of the defence deficit that this Government inherited.
"Although smaller, our Armed Forces will be more flexible and agile to reflect the challenges of the future with the protection and equipment they need."
A spokeswoman for the ministry added: "The end of combat operations in Afghanistan and the restructuring of our armed forces means they will be more reflective of the complex global situation and more adaptable to future challenges and threats."
The ministry said that soldiers serving, or who have recently served, in Afghanistan and those recovering from serious injuries would not be included in the redundancies.
Soldiers voluntarily quitting the forces will leave by December 17 this year, while those facing compulsory redundancy will be out within a year.
The latest round of cuts is the biggest of three since the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government came to power, and reflects its austerity policies as well as the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. Some 3,800 soldiers have already been laid off.
In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday announced the transfer of nationwide security from NATO to Afghan control, a major milestone as the US-led war effort winds down after 12 years.
A total of 444 British troops have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 NATO-led invasion which ousted the Taliban government.
Labour's shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said, "The government has a flawed plan for reforming the British army. There is a huge effort going into sacking soldiers but nowhere near as much is being done to plug the gap by recruiting new reservists.
"These redundancies represent not just broken promises but a failing strategy, and the level of voluntary applicants will be a signal of morale."