Head of Canadian army shuffled out of job

Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:29pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The head of Canada's army, who was set to play a major role in the withdrawal of the Canadian combat mission from Afghanistan next year, has been moved out of his job, officials said on Wednesday.

The Defense Department said Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie's next appointment would be announced at a later date. It did not explain why he had been moved.

Leslie, chief of the land staff, made headlines early last year when he said the army was worn out and would need at least a year to recover once the 2,800-strong Afghan military mission ended in 2011.

He later reversed his position, citing increased investment in the military.

"He is no longer chief of land staff, but he awaits future responsibilities ... (he) has several options under consideration. He's a very capable and valuable officer," said a spokesman for Defense Minister Peter MacKay.

Colonel Alain Pellerin, executive director of the Conference of Defense Associations think tank, said Leslie had been in the job for four years -- longer than the usual stint for a chief of land staff.

"He wanted to remain there. He was enjoying what he was doing. It would be consistent for him to say, 'I want to stay until 2011'," Pellerin told Reuters.

"But he's not alone. There are a number of other officers who would like to be promoted and take over the army," he said. Pellerin and a western defense source said Leslie might be in line for a post with NATO.

Leslie will be replaced by Lieutenant-General Peter Devlin, currently deputy commander of Canadian troops based abroad. He served a 15-month tour in Baghdad from 2006 to 2008 with the U.S. military as part of an exchange program.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)

<p>Canadian Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie pauses during an interview with Reuters at the National Defence headquarters in Ottawa February 16, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>