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General Richards named UK military chief

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 14 July 2010

It is confirmed that General Sir David Richards will replace Sir Jock Stirrup as chief of the defence staff. Who Knows Who profiles the new chief while RUSI director Michael Clarke tells Channel 4 News the appointment is politically crucial.

General Sir David Richards replaces Sir Jock Stirrup as UK's chief of the defence staff, Liam Fox confirmed today (Image: MoD)

The much-mooted favourite for the job, General Sir David Richards (see his Who Knows Who profile), will take up the post in October.

Currently serving as the chief of general staff, General Richards' promotion follows a strategic review and the early exit of Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock who was originally due to leave in April 2011.

Personally approved by prime minister David Cameron last week, his appointment has now been approved by the Queen.

Intriguingly, Mr Cameron already has a close link to the incoming armed forces chief. The PM's assistant diary secretary, Joanna Richards, is the general's daughter.

The prime minister has praised the outgoing chief and congratulated his replacement. 

A critical political appointment for change
General David Richards as CDS is the right man at the right time – though it is not clear that he will see it quite so glibly, RUSI director Michael Clarke tells Channel 4 News.

The political logic is, however, impeccable. To create real change at the MOD there has to be a triumvirate of powerful people who all share the same vision for the future of defence; the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff, and the Permanent Under Secretary (the top civil servant).

Two out of three is not enough. It has to be all three, and they have to have the active support of the prime minister when the going gets tough. Two of those three big beasts are now in place – Liam Fox and David Richards both fit the bill.

We still don’t know who the new PUS will be; nor do we really know how the prime minister will react when defence decisions get difficult. But it won’t be long before all the bits of the jigsaw are in place.

There is a bit of musical chairs to play first, and then we will see the make-up of the whole team. And as we approach the Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October, the going will most certainly get tougher for everyone in defence (and in Downing Street).

Who Knows Who investigates General Richards' political and military connections. Click here for more.  

'Richards will not be swayed'
In 2000, David Richards was commander of a British paratroop force which went in to evacuate Britons and other foreigners from Sierra Leone caught up in civil war.
Richards liaised with Colonel Tim Collins who as an SAS operations' officer helped organise a Special Forces mission led by the SAS to rescue a group of Royal Irish soldiers captured by the notorious West Side Boys.
Collins, famed for his rousing eve of war speech in Iraq, told Channel 4 News that Richards is the right man for the top defence job: "He is not supine but a forward leaning general. The government are looking for advice warts and all. 
"They don't want a poodle to repeat the mistakes of the past and merely repeat what the politicians say."
Collins added: "He will bring a great deal of sage military advice to Afghanistan. He will be unaffected by the politicians."

Confirming the posting David Cameron said earlier: "Sir Jock has served with real distinction in his time as CDS. I have been personally grateful for his advice since becoming Prime Minister and know that he will continue to make an extremely valuable contribution in the months ahead."

"I have no doubt that Sir David will build on this in the years to come, ensuring that all three services play their part in protecting Britain's national security in Afghanistan and elsewhere," he added.

The appointment of General Richards is expected to cheer the armed forces, who have pressed the need for a leader with ground-war experience as the fight in Afghanistan dominates.

Last month, General Richards reinforced the view that this is the critical year for Afghanistan when he said the mission had to take precedence over "future projected possibilities" in defence spending.

He said: ''While Afghanistan is not the template on which to base the future, it is most certainly a signpost for much of what that future might contain.

''There must be a balance between current operational priorities and future capabilities.

"When they conflict, we must resource those current known requirements over future projected possibilities.''

General Richards, 57, has served in Northern Ireland and led a peacekeeping force in East Timor in 1999.

He had previously served as the head of the international coalition military force in Afghanistan, making him the first British general to command US troops since the Second World War.

He said that the country and its people had "entered my bloodstream".

Dr Fox has previously denied media reports that he wanted Sir Jock to step down due to his close connections to the Labour party. Today, Dr Fox paid tribute to Sir Jock's "excellent leadership".

General Richards' appointment comes as the manhunt continues for the rogue Afghan soldier who killed four British soldiers yesterday.

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