Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 16:33 UK

General quits 'over Afghanistan'

Maj Gen Andrew Mackay in Afghanistan
Maj Gen Mackay had been awarded the CBE for his service in Afghanistan

An army general who is reported to have criticised aspects of the war in Afghanistan has resigned.

Reports said Maj Gen Andrew Mackay, General Officer Commanding Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern England, was unhappy about strategy.

Prince Harry spent 10 weeks from December 2007 in Afghanistan under the command of Maj Gen Mackay.

The Ministry of Defence has insisted that the general's departure was a "personal matter".

Maj Gen Mackay's operational tour to Afghanistan was notable for the re-capture of Musa Qaleh, a strategic town, from the Taliban.

He was subsequently awarded a CBE for his role in the mission.

Maj Gen Mackay's resignation comes as the Daily Telegraph reported that a mole who leaked details of MPs' expenses said he was partly motivated by anger at inadequate equipment for UK troops.

'Serious blow'

Maj Nick Haston, who was Maj Gen Mackay's deputy chief of staff, resigned from the Army earlier this year in protest at policy and equipment shortages.

Maj Haston told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that he was "very shocked and surprised" at the news of his superior's resignation.

His departure underlines the serious dissatisfaction that exists within the military over the UK government's strategy in Afghanistan
Angus Robertson, SNP

"I'd be assuming that frustration… over issues in Afghanistan would be part of the issue. I would be guessing, but I would assume there'd also be other issues such as the general funding problems in the military just now.

"There will be another round of restructuring, I've no doubt about that, and he might have been exposed to this. So that would also have contributed to this decision."

He described the general's resignation as "a serious blow".

"He spent the last year re-writing counter-insurgency doctrine for the British army... he has an intimate knowledge of the approach which needs to be taken in Afghanistan," he added.

An MoD spokesman said: "We can confirm that Maj Gen Andrew Mackay has decided to leave the Army.

"This is a personal matter for him."

'Principled soldier'

Defence analyst and military writer Trevor Royle said Maj Gen Mackay was a "very principled soldier" and was "making a point" by quitting his post.

FROM THE WORLD AT ONE

"Once you've made up your mind that there is no level of commitment for the job that you're doing then you can't continue, that's clearly what he felt."

Maj Gen Mackay is the latest officer to leave the armed forces amid criticism of strategy in Afghanistan.

Officers such as Lt Col Stuart Tootal and Maj Sebastian Morley have expressed concern about equipment shortages.

Brigadier Ed Butler, of 16 Air Assault Brigade, also voiced concerns when he resigned, and General Sir Richard Dannatt stepped down as head of the army after repeatedly speaking out to highlight what he said were equipment shortages and poor pay and conditions.

Political reaction

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said Maj Gen Mackay's had battled throughout his career to "improve the lot of the ordinary soldier".

"His departure underlines the serious dissatisfaction that exists within the military over the UK government's strategy in Afghanistan, and the support provided for our forces," he said.

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said: "General Mackay's anger is simply the tip of the iceberg."

Liberal Democrat shadow defence secretary Nick Harvey said: "If the government is not prepared to resource our commanders properly, it should not be putting troops on the front line."



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