Warning that Islamist militancy can never be defeated, the new head of Britain's armed forces has said the threat posed by al-Qaeda and its affiliates would put the UK's national security at risk for at least 30 years.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, General Sir David Richards has said that defeating the terror group al-Qaeda and Islamist militancy was "unnecessary and would never be achieved", though it could be "contained" to allow Britons to lead secure lives.
"In conventional war, defeat and victory is very clear cut and is symbolised by troops marching into another nation's capital. First of all you have to ask: do we need to defeat it (Islamist militancy) in the sense of a clear cut victory? I'd argue that it is unnecessary and would never be achieved."
"But can we contain it to the point that our lives and our children's lives are led securely? I think we can," the 58 -year-old General Richards said, adding that the threat posed by the al-Qaeda meant Britain's national security would be at risk for the next three decades.
The real weapon in the war against al-Qaeda was the use of "upstream prevention" and "education and democracy" and the problems that gave rise to militant Islamism were unlikely to be solved soon, he said.
He also claimed that the West's war against what he described as a "pernicious ideology" had parallels with the fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
The armed forces chief said that the British military and the government had been "guilty of not fully understanding what was at stake" in Afghanistan and admitted that the Afghan people were beginning to "tire" of Nato's inability to deliver on its promises.
And, on the issue of future wars, the General said he could see no case for military intervention in other countries "at the moment", but added that he would be "barmy to say that one day we wouldn't be back in that position".