Ex-SAS chief who led secret hunt for Bin Laden is named as new British Army head

Lieutenant General Mark Carleton-Smith will be confirmed today as the new Chief of the General Staff.

The dashing 54-year-old Old Etonian commanded the Hereford-based Who Dares Wins regiment in 2002 when it pursued the killed al-Qaeda boss in Afghanistan.

He went to serve as Director Special Forces in charge of all of the UK’s covert elite units a decade later.The appointment of a man with his expertise in clandestine warfare underlines ministers’ determination to step up the shadowy war against dispersing ISIS and al-Qaeda militants.

Intelligence chiefs have warned the domestic terror threat will spiral over the next two years as they flee their former safe havens in Syria and Iraq.

Lt Gen Carleton-Smith is currently Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff in the MoD, in charge of all military operations. He was the favourite for the £180,000 a year job.

A senior military source said: “Mark caught No10’s eye when he played a leading role overseeing the counter Daesh operations, and was particularly impressive during the recent Syria strikes. He has been there and done that with all his SAS experience, and is also a very bloke good and popular with the blokes.”

The decision to appoint him was taken by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and approved by the Queen. Carleton-Smith originally joined the Irish Guards and carried out ceremonial duties outside Buckingham Palace, before transferring to the SAS as a young officer.

The Army’s top job fell vacant when its former occupant General Sir Nick Carter was promoted to become the nation’s top warrior, Chief of Defence Staff, last month.

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