Can we see the date marked 'EXIT'?

Under the operations of the surge agreed by Barack Obama with the Pentagon, new forces will be used to undertake one last drive to break the back of the Taliban insurgency. It will be another 'smoke and mirrors' campaign: declaring victory over a wasteland and calling it peace. Afghanistan is a broken country, with residual institutions and powerless even under the writ of the West.

The cost of this final campaign is that British soldiers will now fall under US operational command. The yo-yoing of the last four years may finally come to and end. Whatever moral endeavour we owed to the Afghan peoples for plunging their country into war has long been played out by the cost in men and materiel. there is a time when we have paid enough in blood.

That time has almost been reached, but it is linked, in the minds of our generals and politicians, to the disposition of the US. So, we will wait and act under their command, until such time as they leave. Whilst an immediate departure is premature, now is the time to announce a leaving date. Now is the time to depart. Let it be in line with the United States, if they wish it. But let us have an exit strategy, one that we stick to.