Not exactly a shock I grant you. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7149104.ece BRITAINâS most senior military officer is to be axed as the new government seeks to draw a line under past failures in Afghanistan. Liam Fox, the defence secretary, told The Sunday Times the chief of the defence staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, would resign in the autumn before the end of his term. Sir Bill Jeffrey, the top civil servant at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), will go at the same time. The clean sweep at the top is intended to improve the militaryâs performance on the Afghan front line, as well as cutting Whitehall waste. In an interview Fox indicated that Stirrup and Jeffrey, both close to the old Labour regime, would be replaced at the conclusion of a strategic defence review (SDR). Fox said he wanted âthe best people to be in the appropriate postsâ once the review was over. âWe have to be able to maintain full stability and the full confidence of the people who work for us, not least because weâre in a very dangerous armed conflict,â he said. Stirrup has been criticised for not doing enough to support frontline troops. The decision to replace them coincides with one of the worst weeks for Nato forces since the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001. Thirty-two Nato troops, including three Britons, have been killed since last Sunday. The latest Briton to die was a soldier in the 1st Battalion, the Mercian Regiment, who was killed in an explosion in Helmand province yesterday. Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP and former soldier, said the change at the top of the MoD was desperately needed. âThe last regime allowed our men to go into Helmand improperly prepared, while huge sums of money were squandered on projects such as the refurbishment of the Ministry of Defence,â he said. Another Tory backbencher, Adam Holloway, a former Guards officer, said: âThere was a tendency under the Labour government to promote âpoliticians in uniformâ rather than officers willing to give frank advice about the strategic drift in Afghanistan.â Colonel Tim Collins, who quit the army over the lack of funding, said: âJock Stirrup was a well-known apologist for Labour muddled thinking over Afghanistan.â In the Sunday Times interview Fox issued a strong attack on Nato colleagues, warning that if their refusal to back the Afghan mission led to defeat, it would demonstrate âlack of moral resolveâ. He indicated Stirrup and Jeffrey would be replaced swiftly. âIâve been discussing with them and other senior staff how we transition to the new structures,â Fox said. âWeâve talked about the best time to be replacing our senior staff, probably the end of the SDR in the autumn.â He said their departure would take place at a âtime that treats our long-serving personnel with some respectâ. Critics have accused Stirrup, a former jet pilot, of failing to get a grip on the Afghan mission, where British deaths have hit 294. The death toll in the Falklands was 255. Appointed as head of the armed forces in 2006, Stirrup had his contract extended by Gordon Brown two years later to prevent the outspoken General Sir Richard Dannatt from getting the top job. Stirrup, who earns Â£245,000 a year, was set to continue in his post until next spring. He is likely to be replaced by an army man, either the chief of the general staff, General Sir David Richards, or the vice-chief of the defence staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton. Rear-Admiral Chris Parry, who left the navy in 2008, said Stirrupâs successor should âstand clear of political considerationsâ. âOfficers have been willing to let themselves be politicised as a means of climbing up the promotion ladder,â he said. Jeffrey, who has a salary of Â£180,000, has been permanent under-secretary since 2005, during which time the MoD budget spiralled out of control, creating a Â£36 billion âblack holeâ. A damning report by Bernard Gray, a former MoD special adviser, said the departmentâs âincompetentâ equipment programme was damaging the troopsâ ability to win in Afghanistan. Amid the pressure for large cuts, Fox said no area of spending would escape scrutiny and refused to rule out reductions in uniformed personnel. âThere will be major change,â Fox said. âThis is the review that has to kiss goodbye to the cold war. That will require us to be quite tough . . . every single thing must be justified.â The defence secretary admitted that troops still did not have all the equipment they needed to do the job. âItâs clear that all the equipment necessary is not yet in theatre,â he said. âIâve asked if that can be speeded up.â British forces could begin coming home from Afghanistan next year, he said. But that was dependent on Afghan troops being able to enforce security. âWe donât want to be in Afghanistan for a day longer than necessary, and we want the government of Afghanistan to be done by Afghans for Afghans, but it has to be against a background where it doesnât pose any security threat to the UK, our interests, or our allies.â Rounding on other Nato countries, Fox claimed that only the US and Britain were pulling their weight. âI can understand why some of our Nato partners have problems sending combat troops, whether for political reasons or for constitutional reasons,â he said. âBut I have absolutely no patience that they cannot send training troops.â He said the failure of Nato countries to provide such troops was the result of âa lack of political will and lack of moral resolveâ. âOurselves and the United States are hugely committed to the mission and everybody else needs to catch up,â he said.