General says MoD 'out of touch' with reality

By Terri Judd
Monday 22 March 2010 01:00

A former British commander in Afghanistan has called for an overhaul of the relationship between policymakers and soldiers on the front line, saying Whitehall "loses sight" of realities on the ground. Major-General Andrew Mackay, who left the Army last year, criticised the Ministry of Defence for struggling to adapt to the realities of fighting an insurgency. He agreed earlier "severe deficiencies" in equipment had improved, but not rapidly enough.

General Mackay, the British commander in Helmand when his men recaptured the strategic town of Musa Qala, complained privately of a failure to provide adequate reconstruction to win the hearts and minds of locals.

On BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend, he said: "Any policy generated out of Whitehall or Washington ... in the end requires a soldier to leave an operating base and ... talk to the population or government of that country. Sometimes I think policy loses sight of that hard requirement at the other end."

With the first Strategic Defence Review for 13 years due after this year's election, the general saw an "opportunity" arising from tighter spending, but said "We have very tough choices ahead. Whether or not we will make the right choices remains to be seen."

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