Boris Johnson expected to announce new military chief this week | Military

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Boris Johnson interviewed five candidates for the head of the British Armed Forces, with Chief of the Navy Adm Tony Radakin and SAS responsible general Sir Patrick Sanders heading the post.

Defense sources said the prime minister has been asked to choose a new military leader with “operational experience” to replace outgoing General Sir Nick Carter, whose credibility has been tarnished by the chaotic exit from Afghanistan.

But there is uncertainty in the Department of Defense as to who Johnson will favor for the £ 270,000 a year post, although Downing Street is expected to announce the appointment this week now as the final leg of the interviews is over.

The four military officials are in the running, along with a more junior candidate, Vice Admiral Ben Key, head of joint operations, who was put into the field after No.10 wanted an additional name and not traditional Ministry of Defense.

Radakin, 55, the first sealord, is seen as a seasoned manager whose candidacy comes at a time when Johnson is pushing for greater use of British naval power, with the deployment of the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in The pacific.

But there is discontent in parts of Whitehall that the admiral appeared keen to claim credit for the Aukus nuclear submarine pact with Australia and the United States, when it was widely negotiated. by n ° 10.

Sanders, 55, a special forces veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, has more combat experience despite leading Strategic Command, a disparate group that combines the military’s cyber forces and the secret SAS.

Both, however, are recognized as the best communicators in the field. “Nobody wants a repeat of Carter after Afghanistan, where he struck the wrong tone in the aftermath of the Taliban capture of Kabul,” a defense source said.

Days after the fall of Kabul last month, Carter called the Taliban “country boys” who wanted an “inclusive Afghanistan” – though there have been repeated reports of violent retaliation by the new leadership of the country, who have also effectively banned secondary education for girls since the takeover of the country.

Despite the faster-than-expected collapse of the previous Afghan government, Key reportedly chaired what is considered a relatively successful emergency airlift from Kabul last month, in which the RAF rescued 14,500 people. Promoting it above the oldest department heads would, however, be a major upheaval.

The talks complete a two-step process, which began with a series of barbecues earlier this month by a Defense Department panel led by Ben Wallace, the Secretary of Defense. Following this, Wallace sent his own recommendation to the PM, but the decision ultimately rests with Johnson.

A defense source said Stephen Lovegrove, the national security adviser, had asked Johnson to search for someone with “calm judgment”.

Among the other candidates is Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, 57, the army chief, who was at school with Johnson in Eton, which some believe could still give him a chance. “Boris likes to reward people he believes are loyal to him,” said a former Downing Street staff member.

RAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, who chairs the service considered to have the best diversity record, rounds out the pitch. But he’s not considered as strong a public speaker as Radakin, and insiders say he doesn’t like his own chances very much.

Downing Street and the Department of Defense declined to comment.

Runners and riders

Tony radakin: The head of the Royal Navy is considered a good speaker looking for a PR opportunity, only last week announcing the appointment of Bond actor Daniel Craig as Honorary Commander, to act as defender of military families.

Patrick sanders: Special forces veteran who has participated in every major deployment for the past 25 years. Recently admitted that his experiences in Iraq had left him with suicidal thoughts, as he called on soldiers and veterans to seek help with PTSD.

Mark Carleton Smith: Old Etonian and former SAS commander who took over as head of the military in 2018. Formerly responsible for the SAS hunt against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan – although the al-Qaida leader was eventually shot down by the states -United.

Mike Wigston: Former educated Welsh Tornado pilot. Last month, the RAF said the RAF was ready to launch further long-range strikes in Afghanistan, even though there could be cases of “inevitable civilian casualties.”

Ben Key: Head of operation whose notoriety soared during the Afghan crisis. Led the daily deployment of 1,000 British troops around the perimeter of Kabul airport, allowing the early evacuation of the British and Afghans for two weeks.

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Edward L. Robinett

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