The top UK Royal Air Force general has defended the RAF’s bombing of Islamic State targets calling ISIS “really wicked and evil enemy that used civilians as human shields.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said the RAF had carried out “the most carefully planned air campaign in history” and was “meticulous” in trying to avoid civilian casualties.

Amnesty International has criticised the UK for its role in attacks on the Syrian city of Raqqa.

It claimed that the US-led coalition had been responsible for killing hundreds of civilians in Raqqa alone and it called on the Ministry of Defence to “come clean” over Britain’s role.

But Air Chief Marshal Peach, who earlier in his career served as a navigator in a Tornado jet, does not accept the charge.

He said any allegation of civilian harm, with evidence of time and place, was properly investigated.

RAF strikes ‘have killed more than 3,000 IS fighters’

In a valedictory interview with BBC News, Air Chief Marshal Peach highlighted some of the challenges he has faced as the most senior British military officer, including recruitment.

The regular Army is more than 10,000 soldiers short of its target strength of 82,000 and he admitted he was “worried” about the numbers, saying they presented a “challenge to do better”.

He suggested that part of the problem was an “unfortunate characterisation” of how the armed forces were often portrayed.

“We’re not all heroes and we’re certainly not all victims”, he said, adding that the vast majority who served were “enriched” by their life in uniform.

His own origins are humble – as the son of an Army sergeant major. Educated in a state grammar school, he was the first in his family to go to university and describes the RAF as a meritocracy with a long history of taking people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

With the call for more defense spending with threats rising, Peach highlighted the recent Skripal assassination attempt on British soil and said that those type of attacks are now becoming routine, almost regular.

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Photo courtesy UK MOD