Army chief gets the boot, as Afghan war heats up

A change at the top signals a new approach to the war in Afghanistan. But can this battle really be won? And should we be fighting at all?

The story about the war in Afghanistan took a new twist yesterday. The Daily Telegraph announced “the beginning of the end” for the Afghan campaign. The Mail spoke of healing a “breach of trust” between politicians and soldiers.
What was all the fuss about? On Sunday, defence secretary Liam Fox announced that Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of Britain’s military, would be stepping down early after a Strategic Defence Review this autumn. A more “appropriate” candidate, with fewer ties to the old Labour government, will take his place.
The Tories are thought to blame Sir Jock for failing to give enough support to soldiers in Afghanistan. While faulty equipment and a shortage of helicopters were costing lives on the ground, Sir Jock and his staff spent money and effort on unnecessary projects like aircraft carriers and fighter jets. His removal, said The Telegraph, signals a “fresh strategy” on the war.
As the number of British deaths in the conflict – now in its ninth year – rises towards 300, David Cameron wants to put the war back at the “front and centre of national life”. He spoke to MPs, yesterday afternoon, of the need to “redouble our efforts” and called 2010 a vital year for the campaign.

This year’s fighting has been particularly hard, as soldiers try to push deeper into the Taliban’s mountainous territory. Cameron hopes that this “surge” – a strategy that worked well in Iraq – can bring an end to the fighting and allow troops to come home from perhaps as early as next year.

An unwinnable war?

Some think we’ve been in Afghanistan too long already. If stopping “terror” is the justification, will we have to invade other countries where al-Qaeda has bases, like Yemen or Somalia?
And there’s a more practical point. Afghans have successfully fought off invaders from the Red Army to Alexander the Great – there’s no reason to think they’ll give up now. As costs spiral, and casualties mount up, can we even win this war at all?
But others argue that pulling out too early would mean abandoning the country to the Taliban, and giving terrorists a new safe haven from which to launch deadly attacks on the UK. This war, they say, is vital to national security.

You Decide

  1. Does Britain have the right to invade another country to protect its own national security? What might be a fair justification for going to war?
  2. The Taliban have a record of human rights abuses. Should we stay to protect Afghan civilians even if it costs British lives?
  3. If Britain is trying to help Afghans, why do many see the British as invaders? Might history have anything to do with it?
  4. A change at the top signals a new approach to the war in Afghanistan. But can this battle really be won? And should we be fighting at all?


  1. Divide the class into two teams and set up a class debate. Conclude your discussions with a vote.

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