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General Sir David Richards to get top army job

DAVID Cameron is to make Britain’s top General the new head of the Armed Forces.

General Sir David Richards will become Chief of Defence Staff in the Autumn when Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup steps down.

The man who saved Sierra Leone from a bloody coup and genocide and orchestrated a daring SAS raid to free British troops who had been captured by rebels is already close to the PM.


In fact, his daughter worked as the Prime Minister’s diary secretary before he went to Number 10.

But General Richards will be appointed after impressing the PM with the need for urgent change in Afghanistan.

He wants an end to promises that Britain will soon start to pull out of Afghanistan.

General Richards believes that simply gives the Taliban an excuse to melt away and wait for the British to go home.

Instead, General Richards wants troops to concentrate on the “take, hold and build” strategy, securing large sections of Helmand and then providing schools, clinics and secure local government.

He also supports the drive by Defence Secretary Liam Fox to modernise the Ministry of Defence.

But he may clash with his new bosses by telling them he needs 10,000 more soldiers.

That could mean more severe cuts to the RAF and Royal Navy.

Our source said: "Quite simply, he's the best man for the job.

"He is an incredibly well respected and talented Officer who has done a great job as head of the Army.
"There is no-one else better qualified."

Last week Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced that Stirrup would be standing down, along with the Ministry of Defence's top civil servant, Sir Bill Jeffrey.

Since then fierce speculation has erupted over who the next CDS will be.

The post was thought to have been a two horse race with vice-chief of the defence staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, but it is current Army chief Richards who has been picked.

Our source said: "Houghton is also a terrific, highly impressive soldier.

"But their CVs are incomparable - Gen Richards experience dwarfs that of Houghton."

General Richards has nearly 40 years of service under his belt.

He has commanded British Forces in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, East Timor and headed Nato forces in Afghanistan in 2006-07.

He took over from General Sir Richard Dannatt as Chief of General Staff - the Army's top post - last year.

His charisma and willingness to speak his mind has made him popular with troops and politicians alike.

General Richards is expected to push for big reforms of the three Services, arguing that they are currently geared for the form of war he believes they are least likely to face - a new Cold War.

Earlier this year General Richards repeatedly stated his desire for Britain to retain "boots on the ground" to fight what he predicts will be messy conflicts of the type sign-posted by Iraq and Afghanistan.

He called for the sacrifice of tanks, jets and some heavier war-fighting equipment in favour of agile technologically advanced Forces suited to urban and coastal warfare.

Critics have accused Stirrup, a former jet pilot, of failing to get a grip on the Afghan mission, where British deaths have hit 294. The death toll in the Falklands was 255.

Appointed as head of the armed forces in 2006, Stirrup had his contract extended by Gordon Brown two years later to prevent the outspoken General Sir Richard Dannatt from getting the top job.

At the same time, Labour MPs were accused of a smear campaign, claiming General Richards  also had close links with the Conservative Party.

Stirrup, who earns £245,000 a year, was set to continue in his post until next spring.

And earlier this week it was revealed he broke rules to take £60,000 worth of posh flights.

Sir Jock took 20 first class flights in ten months - at a cost of £53,440.70, refusing cheaper flights so he could fly with his favourite airline British Airways.

Thirteen of his remaining 33 trips on commercial airlines between April 2009 and February this year were in business class, costing £6,843.60.



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