London, Jan 15 (ANI): Britain's former Special Representative to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, has said that British troops were sent to Afghanistan simply to avoid a reduction in the size of the Army as operations in Iraq reduced.
Sir Sherard said General Richard Dannatt told him "that if he didn't use in Afghanistan the battle groups starting to come free from Iraq, he would lose them in a future defence review. It's use them or lose them."
Sir Richard has denied the remarks, but Sir Sherard's comments, made to the Foreign Affairs select committee, will reopen the debate on British strategy in Afghanistan, SKY News reports.
The former diplomat, known for his outspoken views, also said ministers were not fully informed as to the nature of the conflict they faced in Helmand province, Britain's main area of responsibility in Afghanistan.
"I do think some of the advice they put to ministers was misleadingly optimistic, and that ministers' professional advisers, both military and civilian, sometimes did not spell out for ministers the costs and risks of engagement in Helmand," he said.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "British forces are in Afghanistan for one very clear reason - the UK's national security. Alongside international forces from 48 other nations, we are there to prevent al Qaeda from again using Afghan territory to plot and launch terror attacks.
"As the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence have made very clear, ISAF now has the right strategy and the resources with which to deliver it and are very clear about the role that UK forces are playing within that strategy." (ANI)