Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 18:38 UK

MoD 'must adapt' to new threats

Gen Sir Richard Dannatt
Sir Richard is seen as an outspoken defender of the Army's interests

The head of the Army has said UK armed forces risk becoming "increasingly irrelevant" if the Ministry of Defence does not "adapt across the board".

Gen Sir Richard Dannatt said there remained a "Cold War mentality", geared to combating threats from other states.

But troops were now more involved in counter-insurgency operations, he said.

He told the Chatham House think tank that the fight against al-Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups was "probably the fight of our generation".

Sir Richard warned that British forces could expect to be involved in combating "predatory non-state actors" for the foreseeable future, in what he called an "era of persistent conflict".

BBC diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams says Sir Richard "clearly does not believe the UK's armed forces are properly organised or equipped for such sustained efforts".

'Balanced' forces

The general said that only 10% of the MoD's equipment programme between 2003 and 2018 was to be invested in the "land environment" - at a time when Britain was engaged in two land-based military operations.

FROM THE PM PROGRAMME

He said defence spending in the medium term should focus on what was relevant, rather than on achieving "balanced" forces.

The speech to the London think tank comes a day after the government announced a plan to buy a third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft for the RAF.

Sir Richard predicted that British forces could expect to be in Afghanistan "for years to come".

The government would need to present a "clear and compelling narrative" to the public, explaining why costly operations had to continue, he said.



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