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Friday, 4 January, 2002, 09:30 GMT
SAS chief takes top Afghan war job
Royal Marine Commandos in Afghanistan
Lt Gen Delves will operate from US Central Command
A commander who led SAS troops in the Falklands conflict is to become the UK's top representative at the US Central Command for the Afghan war, it was revealed on Friday.

Lieutenant General Cedric Delves will take the British seat at Central Command in Tampa, Florida, where American general Tommy Franks oversees the military effort against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

He succeeds Air Marshal Jock Stirrup, in a sign the focus is changing from air operations to a campaign conducted largely by special forces on the ground.

Lt Gen Delves, who takes over on 17 January, commanded the SAS's D squadron in the Falklands, where he won the Distinguished Service Order for a "brilliantly successful series of clandestine operations".

Symbolic gesture

He is currently deputy commander-in-chief of United Kingdom Land Forces.

The symbolic gesture is seen as proof of Britain's importance in the war, which has so far involved the use of the RAF for mid-air refuelling and reconnaissance missions and the deployment of the SAS in Afghanistan.

A British-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan is expected to number 3,000 to 5,000 troops, including 1,500 Britons.

Attention has shifted to the need to deal with pockets of Taleban and al-Qaeda resistance in remote parts of the troubled country.

Currently, special forces are being used to track down Mullah Mohammed Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taleban, as well as look for Osama Bin Laden's trail.

American general Tommy Franks
Gen Franks leads the US Central Command in Florida

Lt Gen Delves will be the highest-ranking non-American at the Central Command.

Central Command's Rear Admiral Craig Quigley told the Los Angeles Times: "The special relationship that we enjoy with the United Kingdom is reflected in the fact that they assigned a three-star officer here."

Other targets

Outgoing Air Marshal Stirrup told the newspaper: "We have sought to make a significant military contribution to this campaign from the outset.

"Let's face it, even the largest military power in the world at some stage runs short of military assets."

He also hinted at what may happen when American plans move on to other targets outside Afghanistan.

"The United Kingdom has always made clear that the purpose of this campaign is to remove terrorism as a force in international affairs," he said.

"Clearly that does not necessarily end in Afghanistan."

See also:

02 Nov 01 | UK
Profile: The SAS
10 Nov 01 | Americas
Profile: General Tommy Franks
29 Dec 01 | South Asia
Marines patrol streets of Kabul
01 Jan 02 | South Asia
Straw hails Britain's Afghan role
04 Jan 02 | South Asia
Mullah Omar 'near to surrender'
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