Former MI6 head accuses government of 'squeezing' Afghan budget

Sir Richard Dearlove attacks "half-hearted" political leaders over Afghanistan war

Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, has launched an outspoken attack on the government over its financing and handling of the Afghanistan war.

Dearlove, who was in charge of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1999 to 2004, accused the Treasury of 'squeezing' the defence budget

He went on to say that the government had consistently failed to explain to the public why Britain was at war.

Speaking in a Gresham College lecture in London, Dearlove said: "Our armed forces have been under-resourced. This is a basic fact from which there really is no escape. The Treasury has been squeezing the defence budget for approximately eight years."

He added: "Until recently, our political leadership has failed to explain satisfactorily why we are at war. Their advocacy of the policy has, I think, been half-hearted. Maybe now we see a change in that advocacy with a more confident position being taken. But the reason for change looks rather more like political damage limitation, than vigorous belief in the policy."

Dearlove, who led MI6 when British troops were first sent to Afghanistan in 2001, called on the government to deliver a strong message to the Taliban in order to avoid the loss of more soldiers.

The Taliban, if they think we are wavering, will up the pressure and be encouraged to try to kill more of our soldiers," he said.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "We have consistently increased funding for the mission in Afghanistan year by year in recent years. The Prime Minister and other Cabinet ministers continue to explain and make the case publicly for the mission."

The spokesman said funding for the Afghan campaign had risen from £750 million in 2006/07 to £3.5 billion in 2009/10.


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