London: Yemen must not become a new Afghanistan, the head of Britain's armed forces said today, playing down the prospect of military action in the wake of a foiled parcel bomb plot.
General Sir David Richards insisted that the Yemeni government was "extremely onside" and that Britain would remain supportive of their efforts to combat violent extremism.
His comments, made to the BBC, came after two bomb parcels heading for the United States were sent from Yemen in a plot which sparked a huge international security alert.
The bombs have also fuelled concerns about the activities of Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Asked whether Yemen could become another Afghanistan, Richards said, "It mustn't become so...I don't think we want to open up another front there and nor do the Yemenis want us to do that."
He also said Britain would remain "very close" to Yemen's government while concentrating its military efforts on Afghanistan.
"Clearly the Yemeni government doesn't believe it needs our help and they're extremely onside, like most Islamic nations are actually," Richards added.
"So I think our role is to remain very close to them, to help them where they most need it and in the meanwhile focus our efforts on Afghanistan and assisting Pakistan to make sure that they don't become the threat that Yemen clearly is beginning to be."
Richards has just taken over as armed forces chief from Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, who held the post for four years.
Britain has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, making it the second largest contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force fighting Taliban and other Islamist insurgents.
First Published: Monday, November 01, 2010, 19:12