Strained by years of deadly wars, US army soldiers are deserting their posts on a scale not seen since the the Vietnam war. The number of deserters this year alone shows an 80 per cent increase. This trend is due to a variety of reasons including the duration of the assignment and the absence of a timetable for troop withdrawal, low morale and the rising number of troop casualties and the lost battle for "hearts and minds".

However the US army looks reluctant to impose real punishment on deserters, with only five per cent of deserters being prosecuted so far.
Is the increase in the number of deserters an indicator of how US wars are going? Is the drop in benefits for regular conscripts leading to more desertions? Why is the US army reluctant to punish deserters? Could it backfire? And what would stem the rising tide?

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This episode of Inside Story aired on Thursday, December 06, 2007

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