October 17, 2008 / 9:39 AM / 11 years ago

Former NATO chief to lead UK army

General Sir Richard Dannatt speaks to the media outside the Ministry of Defence in London, October 13, 2006. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

LONDON (Reuters) - A general who is reported to favour a “surge” of troops to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan was named head of the British Army on Friday.

The appointment of General David Richards, a former commander of the NATO force in Afghanistan, is part of a sweeping shakeup of Britain’s military top brass announced by the government on Friday.

Richards, currently commander-in-chief of land forces, will take over from General Richard Dannatt as chief of the general staff in August next year.

The Independent newspaper reported that Richards believes a build-up of 30,000 more troops is needed in Afghanistan, where there has been a resurgence of violence in the past year.

He is believed to favour sending up to 5,000 more British troops, in addition to the 8,000 already there, the report said. The other 25,000 would be made up of U.S. reinforcements and newly trained Afghan soldiers.

Military commanders are hoping that as British troops are withdrawn from Iraq, numbers will be boosted in Afghanistan, where the British force is over-stretched.

The Ministry of Defence also announced that Admiral Mark Stanhope would take over as chief of naval staff while Stephen Dalton would become chief of the air staff, both from July next year.

Richards was commander of NATO’s ISAF force in Afghanistan between May 2006 and February 2007, when he was the first non-American to command U.S. forces since World War Two.

The outgoing head of the army, Dannatt, is widely reported to have irritated the government with his outspoken comments about the strains that military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are putting on the British army.

Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Steve Addison

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