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Military figures have hit out at a plan by the Government to put women in military combat roles.
Major General Patrick Cordingley, a former commander of the “Desert Rats” armoured brigade, told the Daily Mail: “There is a political imperative. However, I think that it is a mistake from the armed forces.
“I can understand why politically it is a good thing to be seen to be doing - on the other hand, the practicalities of women in the infantry and armoured corps are considerable and should not be overlooked.”
An Army review of the policy excluding women from such roles found no evidence that mixed ground close combat units would have a detrimental effect on cohesion between troops.
It does, however, recommend further research is carried out into the physiological demands placed on frontline infantry personnel before a final decision on whether to lift the ban is taken.
Speaking this morning, Michael Fallon acknowledged that the "long-term effect on women of the training regimes" for combat troops needed to be studied, but said he hoped to open up frontline roles to women in the next 18 months.
"We have to make sure the infrastructure behind the training doesn’t obviously damage women who might otherwise be expected to carry very heavy equipment in close combat at close quarters," he told the Today programme.
"There’s work to be done but yes, I think army selection should be done on the basis of ability from now on, and not on the basis of gender."
A Whitehall source speaking to Sky News described the review as "a big step forward in the process", adding that "there is genuine hope this will be a reality come 2016".
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