London, June 25 : Britain's armed forces have been left stretched beyond their capabilities in two major military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the head of the Armed Forces has admitted.
The two wars have left the forces "stretched beyond the capabilities we have," The Telegraph quoted Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, as saying.
There are 4,000 British troops in Iraq and numbers in Afghanistan will soon exceed 8,000.
This is the first time that the British military's most senior officer has expressed such grave doubts about the struggle faced by troops fighting wars on two fronts.
Highlighting the pressures prolonged operations are putting on soldiers, sailors and airmen and their relatives, Air Chief Marshal Stirrup called for services families to be given priority access to public services.
He admitted that Britain could face decades more involvement in Afghanistan, which he called a "mediaeval" state lacking even basic government structures.
Labour ministers have repeatedly denied suggestions that the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left the forces overstretched, and opposition MPs said Sir Jock's candid remarks have made that position untenable.
Sir Jock's blunt comments about the strain on the Forces are his most critical yet on the issue. Last May, he told MPs that the military was "very stretched" by the two wars, and warned: "In the not-too-distant future we need something to change."
His latest salvo came after being asked why, after seven years in Afghanistan and five in Iraq, British forces still do not have enough helicopters.