Afghanistan represents the most significant British priority outside of the economy. The conflict has seen the greatest costs in both loss of life and finance, with estimates putting the total at £5.7 billion. The current strategy was hard fought for in Washington by the now former ISAF commander, General Stanley McChrystal. That plan is now in jeopardy with a change in command and a further alteration in tactics will now demonstrate a lack of coordination and will-to-win to the enemy.
The recent change in government has brought a new urgency to find a quick and efficient exit in Afghanistan. The Pentagon has said that the Afghan Government controls only 29 of 121 key districts and there are now growing concerns about the country's future, as US and British casualties continue to grow. The NATO-led security mission has suffered considerable costs to date and the situation in the country would appear to be deteriorating.
The removal of McChrystal adds a political dimension to the conflict. A President worries more about his image than continuity of command. Although insubordination and critical discussion of political leadership should always be avoided, McChrystal was too important to remove at such a critical juncture. McChrystal was a popular war leader among his men, US Allies and the Afghan leadership, another reason he was invaluable to most. He proposed a strategy that was warmly embraced by coalition forces in Afghanistan. However, that same strategy has also witnessed casualties unlike those previously witnessed. Al-Qaeda have changed tactics on their front lines, like we have on ours. McChrystal’s counter-insurgency strategy has led to more direct and unexpected attacks on coalition solders. Sniper attacks and fire-fights on our forces are becoming an ever increasingly popular way of targeting troops. The more 'traditional' roadside bombs, although still used, are being successfully countered.