GENERAL Sir Richard Dannatt, the former head of the British Army, courts controversy. He did so when he was commanding the British forces in Iraq and has continued to do so ever since, especially since his retirement at the end of August. On BBC Radio 4's Today earlier this week he was interviewed about the Afghanistan situation but was then unwise enough to take the bait offered by the interviewer who asked about his relations with the prime minister. This is what he said: “In my last three encounters with Mr Brown at the end of July and the beginning of August after I got back from my last trip to Afghanistan, I felt he was beginning to get it. It was late in the day that he was beginning to get it but I think he began to understand the significance and the importance of what we were doing in Afghanistan and I am encouraged that we appear to be making progress in that direction now.”

It seems extraordinary -- unacceptable indeed -- that the most senior officer in the British army can speak in such condescending and offensive terms only three months after his retirement, when British forces have been in Afghanistan since 2002 and Mr Brown has visited them on a number of occasions since becoming prime minister. Sir Richard is to be appointed as an adviser to David Cameron on military matters but the Conservative leader will have to watch his back.


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