'Overstretch' putting UK troops at risk, says general

British troops are being put at risk by underfunding and "overstretch" in Iraq and Afghanistan General Sir Mike Jackson, the former head of the British Army, said in an attack on the Government.

General Sir Mike Jackson criticised defence ministers for "considerable inertia" for failing to recognise that pressures on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan had grown beyond initial expectations.

Giving the BBC's Dimbleby Lecture, he said: "The inescapable deduction is that the funding allocated on the basis of assumptions is inadequate, because the virtual world defined by those assumptions has been overtaken by the real world.

"There is, therefore, a mismatch between what we do and the resources we are given with which to do it."

The Chancellor Gordon Brown announced an additional £600m for the £32bn defence budget in his pre-Budget report yesterday, but Sir Mike hinted British troops were underpaid. Mr Blair in Afghanistan last month was confronted by a soldier who complained he was paid £11,000 to risk his life while firemen earned £22,000.

General Sir Mike, who retired as head of the Army in August, is widely respected by the troops. The Defence Secretary, Des Browne, has denied that British troops are overstretched, but General Sir Mike said: "We could well be asking too much over the long haul."

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