british soldier in iraq .
(photo credit: AP [file])
Tony Blair's most trusted military commander told Britain's The Observer on Saturday that the way Britain's overstretched army was sent into Afghanistan was '"cuckoo."
The rebuke by General the Lord Guthrie came in an Observer interview, his first since quitting as Chief of the Defense Staff five years ago, in which he made an impassioned plea for more troops, new equipment and more funds for a "very, very" over-committed army.
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"Anyone who thought this was going to be a picnic in Afghanistan - anyone who had read any history, anyone who knew the Afghans, or had seen the terrain, anyone who had thought about the Taliban resurgence, anyone who understood what was going on across the border in Baluchistan and Waziristan [should have known] - to launch the British army in with the numbers there are, while we're still going on in Iraq is cuckoo," Guthrie said.
He said the Prime Minister's promise to give the army "anything it wants" was unrealistic. "I'm sure he meant what he said. He is not dishonest. But there is no way you can magic up trained Royal Air Force crews, or trained soldiers, quickly. You can't magic up helicopters, because there aren't any helicopters," said Guthrie, promoted from chief of army staff to become overall head of the military for Blair's first term of office.
Guthrie told The Observer that Britain was "reaping the whirlwind" for assuming too great a "peace dividend" after the Cold War and risks being ill-equipped for a whole new set of dangers.
He also doubted suggestions of an early pullout from Iraq, saying that Britain could not afford to leave a "bloodbath" behind.
Guthrie said that civil servants and even some in the military were assuming that "Afghanistan and Iraq are something we're going to muddle through for another couple of years and then we'll be able to go back" to a period of relative calm.
"I don't see that happening," he told The Observer. "I think we're in an extremely volatile, dangerous world," he said. "It's no good governments saying we're going to keep out of these things. They don't always have the luxury of choice. The type of crisis is actually quite difficult to forecast. But sure enough, we are going to have crises. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that the world is going to settle down in the foreseeable future. We're not going to be allowed to graze in Elysian fields with the sun on our backs."