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Military official: UK forces will take 2-year hit from Olympics

Andrew Medichini / AP, file

Members of the British military rest on July 27 after working at London's ExCel Centre, days before the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

LONDON -- Britain's armed forces will take two years to recover from its deployment at the London 2012 Olympics, the country's chief military planner for the Games told a British newspaper.

Wing Commander Peter Daulby also told The Guardian that the need to send 18,000 troops to Olympic venues after security shortfalls by private contractor G4S proved that Britain "needs a military for more than war fighting."


He said that the deployment took troops away from normal duties and highlighted the danger of "pulling the military down."

The Olympics became the largest peacetime operation ever performed by Britain's armed forces after G4S could not supply all of the promised 10,400 guards for the two-week sporting festival.

'It will take two years to recover from this'
"We were originally planning to provide niche capabilities. When the requirement for venue security was doubled, that was a bit of a game changer," Daulby was quoted as saying in the Guardian on Tuesday.

"It will take two years to recover from this, to get back to normal, to get everything back into kilter. You can't expect them to go back to normal routine very easily," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

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Daulby said Britain's commitment to Afghanistan had not been affected by the Olympics but the military had exceeded by 6,000 the maximum number of people he thought the Ministry of Defense could supply.

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"Anything above 18,000 and you start to shut down elements of defense," he was quoted as saying.

Just two weeks away from the Olympic Opening Ceremony, the British government has announced thousands of additional soldiers will be sent to provide security at game venues.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said the contribution to the Olympics had been planned to avoid an impact on current operations.

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"While some individual training and leave may need to be rescheduled, this will be managed and will not impact on operations including the ongoing mission in Afghanistan," he told Reuters.

Peter Macdiarmid / Pool via Reuters

British Prime Minister David Cameron hands out brownies as he meets with soldiers from 5th Battalion, The Rifles, on security duty on Oct. 2 near his official Downing Street residence during the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

Analyst: An 'overstatement'
Valentina Soria, a research fellow in counter-terrorism and security at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told NBC News that Daulby's comments may have been an "overstatement."

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"The kind of day-to-day security required for the Olympics would have had an impact on the military personnel and the training of the armed forces, but I don't think it would take so much time for them to recover from the effort at the Games," she said.

"In any case, it was well-planned ahead of time and so it would not have been a complete surprise for the military," she said.

Olympic security plan transforms London into fortress

Soria added that Daulby's comments could also be understood in the context of the funding pressures faced by the British military and to demonstrate that the armed forces were needed for both defense and domestic security purposes.

Regular trained members of Britain's army will be cut to 82,000 from 102,000 by 2020 to save money.

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Defense chief: Military has been 'humanized'
British Defense Minister Philip Hammond said Tuesday that G4S's failure to provide enough guards showed that there were some things only state organizations, such the army, could be relied upon to do.

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Hammond, currently overseeing the largest overhaul of Britain's armed forces in a generation, said in an interview with The Independent newspaper that "the story of G4S and the military rescue is quite informative."

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Hammond also said that deploying troops in civilian venues would have a positive impact on the military's reputation within Britain.

"It has humanized the face of the armed forces. In Afghanistan the image is of people in helmets, and kit (equipment), and tooled up. But underneath all that are people you can enjoy a drink with in the pub or a bit of banter at the checkpoint," he told the newspaper.

NBC News' Daniel Strieff and Reuters contributed to this report.

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