Plain-speaking Afghanistan veteran to be British army chief

October 17th, 2008 - 5:38 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 17 (IANS) A general who has called for at least 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan - including 5,000 from Britain - is to be the next British army chief.General Sir David Richards will succeed Sir Richard Dannatt in what is described by commentators as a dramatic reshuffle at the top of the armed forces.

As the former commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, Richards was the first non-American to take command of US forces since World War II and is known for his criticism Nato allies and the Afghan government.

The promotion for the 56-year-old general, announced by the defence ministry Thursday, means three commanders who have extensive experience of Afghanistan and Iraq will preside in the key leadership roles in the military.

Richards, who has called for a “surge” in the number of troops in Afghanistan, takes over from the equally plain-speaking Richard Dannatt, whose criticism of the British presence in Iraq is said to have irritated ministers.

Dannatt said in an interview last week that Britain should pull out of Iraq “sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems”.

“I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing around the world are caused by our presence in Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them,” Dannatt said.

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