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Dr Jack Watling, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said: “The basic implication at the moment is that if there was a crisis where you had to deploy those units you would need to draw infantry [from elsewhere] to make up the numbers. “Those soldiers would not have trained with the people they were fighting alongside and wouldn’t necessarily know the officers, so you would have a much less combat-effective unit than it should be.” Among the other reasons posited for the fall in recruits are comparatively low unemployment, an ageing population, the increase in people taking up post-16 education and and the fact that the army is not currently involved in a major conflict. “When there isn’t a conflict you see a trailing off of interest,” said Watling.