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Britain names new chief of armed forces for radical change

07-15-2010 10:56 BJT

LONDON, July 14 (Xinhua) -- The new British coalition government moved quickly on Wednesday to put in place the new professional head of the armed forces. And it has surprised no one that it is a soldier rather than a sailor or an airman.

General Sir David Richards will become the new Chief of the Defense Staff in October. His appointment marks another important foundation stone in the changes in defense policy that will take place over the life of the new British coalition government and beyond.

General Richards takes over from Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, an airman, who was shunted out of his job by the new defense secretary, Dr. Liam Fox, shortly after he took office in the wake of the coalition's formation on May 11.

Air Chief Marshal Stirrup, who began his military career as a jet fighter pilot, has been criticized for his handling of the war in Afghanistan, which has seen an expensive and bloody escalation over the past few years.

A lack of troops on the ground and helicopters to move them around dogged the early years of a major additional deployment of the British army in Helmand Province in Afghanistan from 2006 onward.

He was also perceived to be too close to the outgoing Labor administration, and former prime minister Gordon Brown extended his tenure of office to prevent the then head of the army, who had been critical of the government, from stepping up into Stirrup's job.

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