Thousands of reservists had been asked whether they would be willing to serve in the two strife-torn countries, amid fears that the forces would not have enough troops to deploy, the report said on Saturday.

About 7500 reservists had already been mobilised compulsorily for Iraq, and another 4000 reservists would still be needed in the next two years, the paper reported.

However, many of the reservists and their employers were frustrated about the often very short notice at which reservists were called up, the paper reported.

Discrimination

Reservists also complained about being discriminated against by regular soldiers. The paper quoted a 32-year-old reservist as saying she and other reservists had been treated like "outcasts" and insulted as "STABS" (stupid territorial army bastards)" during their service in Basra, Iraq.

"Morale is low and most of us cannot wait to get home and leave the TA"

32-year-old reservist

She and other members of the TA - the army's term for reservists - had also been forced to eat separately, live in TA-only accommodation, and stay behind in Iraq while regulars were given priority treatment for flights home to Britain.

"Morale is low and most of us cannot wait to get home and leave the TA," she said. The paper also reported that reservists and their employers were angry about TA troops being made to serve in Iraq for up to six months even though they believed they would only be called up in a national emergencies.

Running short of troops

Under British law reservists can only be mobilised up for a total
of nine in 27 months for peace-keeping missions, or one year in three during war time.

As the British Forces - reduced in size since the end of the Cold War - were running short of troops needed for Iraq and Afghanistan, they now depended on reservists, mainly in specialist areas such as medical services, intelligence, communications and technical support, the paper said.

The British Chief of General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson, was quoted as saying that it was a "mistake" to assume that reservists would be available at the rate they were being used now.