Everything about the Cameron government comes in fives. Five year terms, a five-year
coalition and now we learn that it is Cameron’s considered opinion that British troops cannot remain Afghanistan for another five years. All Cameron has offered is the hope that troops
will be home before the proposed May 2015 election.
Five more years in Helmand on the current trajectory would be extremely costly and unpopular, especially given the political pressure surrounding defence cuts. Cameron realises this but will the
nature of Britain’s engagement change?
The assumption was that Britain would mirror President Obama’s timetable and begin a gradual withdrawal next year. That political and military strategy depended on the success of COINS
entirely. As Daniel Korski and others have argued, the surge has descended into
a slog and I hear that, privately, the Obama administration recognises that beginning largescale withdrawal in 2011 is now an outside bet. Does the same apply for Britain?
NATO’s Afghan strategy is mired. Obama’s problems are of his own making: he should not have issued a timetable that neither he nor his commanders can control – damned stubborn and
these cravenly maniacal jihadis. Cameron has been wise to avoid the trap and not set a deadline. However, his latest intervention (which you can watch here) poses yet further questions about