Head of British Army questions deadline for Afghan troop withdrawal

General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the British General Staff

From James Kirkup, the Telegraph:  Just 24 hours after the Prime Minister rebuked military chiefs for publicly criticising the Government, General Sir Peter Wall, the Chief of the General Staff, suggests in a television programme that Mr Cameron’s 2015 “deadline” to end combat operations could slip. . . .

The Prime Minister is now at odds with the heads of the Armed Forces on the operations in both Afghanistan and Libya, leading to warnings about the strained relations between civilian and military leaders. . . .

In a documentary to be broadcast tonight, Gen Wall suggests that time frame could yet change. “Whether or not it turns out to be an absolute timeline or more conditions-based approach nearer the time, we shall find out,” he says in an interview for Afghanistan: War Without End? to be shown on BBC Two.

He says he did not think Mr Cameron’s promise was “unhelpful”. “You’ve got to set ambitious goals if you want to pull these things off in the strategic space, and the benefits of that goal are already being felt.”

General Lord Dannatt, the former head of the Army, yesterday warned against excessive haste, saying the Prime Minister should not “risk the investment in blood and treasure just for a domestic political agenda. . . ."

The Daily Telegraph disclosed yesterday that the RAF’s operations chief had privately told MPs it could not sustain its Libyan operations beyond September without cutting operations elsewhere. Last week, the head of the Royal Navy made a similar warning in The Daily Telegraph.

At a press conference yesterday, Mr Cameron chided the chiefs and revealed his irritation at repeated defence leaks. “There are moments when I wake up in the morning and read the newspapers and I think ‘You do the fighting, I’ll do the talking’,” he said. (photo: Press Association)

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