Britain`s top military official to quit early: Reports

Sir Jock Stirrup will be replaced for "failures in Afghanistan".

Last Updated: Jun 13, 2010, 11:52 AM IST

London: Britain`s Chief of the Defence Staff Air chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, who has been criticised for not doing enough to support frontline troops in Afghanistan, will be replaced at least six months before the end of his term.

Stirrup, the senior most military officer in the country, will be replaced for "failures in Afghanistan", media reported today.

The clean sweep at the top is intended to improve the military`s performance on the Afghan front line, as well as cutting government waste, the report claimed.

He would resign in the autumn before the end of his term, Liam Fox, the new defence secretary, told The Sunday Times.

Sir Bill Jeffrey, the top civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, will also be replaced at the same time.

Stirrup has been chief of the defence staff since 2006 and was asked to extend his term by the previous government.

Fox indicated that Stirrup and Jeffrey, both close to the old Labour regime, would be replaced at the conclusion of a strategic defence review (SDR).

Fox said he wanted "the best people to be in the appropriate posts" once the review was over.

"We have to be able to maintain full stability and the full confidence of the people who work for us, not least because we`re in a very dangerous armed conflict," he said.

Stirrup has been criticised for not doing enough to support frontline troops.

The decision to replace them coincides with one of the worst weeks for NATO forces since the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001.

Thirty-two NATO troops, including three Britons, have been killed since last Sunday. The latest Briton to die was a soldier in the 1st Battalion, the Mercian Regiment, who was killed in an explosion in Helmand province yesterday.

Fox indicated that Stirrup and Jeffrey would be replaced swiftly.

"I`ve been discussing with them and other senior staff how we transition to the new structures," Fox said. "We`ve talked about the best time to be replacing our senior staff, probably the end of the SDR in the autumn."

He said their departure would take place at a "time that treats our long-serving personnel with some respect."

PTI