Army chief denies troops overstretched

THE head of Britain's armed forces has denied the Army was being overstretched by its commitment to Iraq.General Sir Michael Walker, 59, Chief of the Defence Staff, also said he did not believe that Iraq would turn into another Northern Ireland situation for Britain.

THE head of Britain's armed forces has denied the Army was being overstretched by its commitment to Iraq.

General Sir Michael Walker, 59, Chief of the Defence Staff, also said he did not believe that Iraq would turn into another Northern Ireland situation for Britain.

He was speaking following a meeting of commanders of armed forces from Nato countries at Wattisham, Suffolk.

Sir Michael said: "We are continually reviewing requirements in Iraq. There is no point in sending any troops out if they have not got a proper task."


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Asked if he feared the Army was being stretched, he replied: "I don't think so, not at this stage. We are quite clear what we are doing."

Sir Michael praised the performance of British servicemen and women during the Iraq war and said the Army's experiences in Northern Ireland during the past 30 years would now be essential as Iraq strived to return to normality.

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"They have performed magnificently. The ability they have of being able at one end of the scale to fight a war then at the other end of the scale to get down to peace support operations is invaluable."

He added: "We do have a capability which other nations find hard to match."

He said the test now for politicians and military chiefs would be timing the handover of control back to civilian authorities in Iraq.

"There comes a time when the military have to give way to the whole civilian community and really that is the bit where it actually becomes quite difficult,' said Sir Michael.

"(But) the situation is totally different (to Northern Ireland). I am very optimistic that everything will come together. We need clearly to get the recovery effort accelerated so that we can bring control to the people of Iraq.

"We want to do everything we can to hand the country back to the citizens of Iraq."

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