Afghan official with British Army officer.
Afghan official with British Army officerReuters

According to reports in The Times newspaper, the government is planning substantial cuts in the army's complement of senior officers. The cuts are likely to take place this April. They are set to reduce the army's 500 colonels, and 200 brigadiers and generals, by a third.

An army source would not confirm the figures but stated that the aim was to create a "leaner and more efficient headquarters" and that savings would be reinvested into frontline operations. General Sir Nick Carter, head of the

General Sir Nick Carter, head of the army, ordered the review of senior roles as part of a reorganisation entitled "Army 2020". Meanwhile, senior officers revealed serious problems with the current command structure.

"One of the reasons that our senior military leaders were so poor in Basra [and] Helmand… was that many of them had got promoted to those leadership roles based on their ability to do good staff work, or to be adept at playing compromise politics at the MoD as opposed to demonstrating the ability to lead men, machines and organisations in tough times with incomplete information and under huge pressure," said Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Williams, a former commander of the SAS, who served in both campaigns.

"Staff officers masquerading as military leaders typically give in to politicians, whereas real military leaders stand up to them and provide good advice," he said.

"In my experience the Prime Ministerss that I knew preferred the latter, but were consistently exposed to the former. These staff officers masquerading as leaders were great at arguing points or playing agendas, but totally useless at making the right decisions."

Excessive bureaucracy was also cited as a problem. General Sir Nick Parker retired in 2013 as the army's second-in-command. "Aside from operations, we had great difficulty breaking out of triangular hierarchies that are driven by people with bits of paper," he said.

The cuts to senior roles are not isolated reductions. Under decisions already made, the number of regular army personnel is to be reduced from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020.