The death of Lieutenant Daniel Clack brings the total of the British war dead in Afghanistan to some 379 since 2001. This total dead has since 2010 exceeded the 255 British soldiers who were killed in driving out the Argentinian army that invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, a rapid war with decisive aims and a clear victory.
By contrast, the War in Afghanistan drags on and yet still there has been very little attempt in the mass media to tell the truth about a war being fought for reasons that have never been clearly outlined. Instead, the war is reported intermittently on the TV and the press only when another British soldier dies.
For the British people this may well be important. It certainly will be for the families of those who have died in the service of their country.But, of course, Afghanistan is a land far away of which most British people know nothing apart from the fact soldiers keep coming home in body bags.For what purpose the sacrifice is being made is not mentioned.
Many British people remain puzzled about why Britain is in Afghanistan. Various reasons have been forthcoming in the last decade. From defeating Al Qaida to capturing or killing Osama Bin Laden to protecting the Afghan women from the 'Islamofascism of the Taliban', to 'nation building' in failed states, to plain loyalty to the people of Afghanistan.
An example of the failure to enlighten and dwell on the sacrifice was The ITV Tonight programme this evening. It featured the town of Wootton Bassett, where the dead from Afghanistan have passed through on their last journey to the grave, complete with interviews of the relatives and the spirit of sacrifice which links the dead of Afghanistan to the two world wars.
The problem has been that there is little indication ever about whether the sacrifice in Afghanistan really is actually 'worth it' beyond trying to fit it in with 'the war on terror' to protect Britain from another 7/7. This despite the fact Al Qaida no longer has a significant presence in this land and that it is a global network that can plan attacks from anywhere across the globe. Including Britain. As happened on 7/7.
There has been much discussion about 'mission creep' but more likely it seems that whilst the ostensible justifications have shifted another very certain core objective from the outset has not.
The construction of the TAPI pipeline has barely been mentioned at all by the BBC or the press. Yet it remains a key objective of NATO's war and is due to be completed in 2014, the very year in which troops are due to be withdrawn from Afghanistan. The continued delay of the withdrawal is due to security concerns regarding the pipeline transit route.
The Taliban has remained strong in Helmland where the majority of the British casualties have been inflicted, including Lieutenant Clack, and the province through which the TAPI pipeline is set to run through. As the TAPI will provide large revenue to Kabul through transit fees, it the aim of the Taliban to threaten it to extract concessions or NATO withdrawal.
So the rationale of 'staying the course' in Afghanistan has less to do with terrorism and selfless 'humanitarian intervention'. It is more to do with the geopolitical ambitions inherent in the New Great Game for control of the supply of fossil fuels from Central Asia. With TAPI, the prize is Turkmen gas from the Dauletabad gas field.
The plan behind the pipeline is to unite Afghanistan together in a community of mutual interests under the auspices of NATO and US military power. This will shift the regional balance of power away from Iran which has proposed a rival IPI pipeline that would bypass Afghanistan entirely.
Encircling Iran from both the west in Iraq and the east in Afghanistan is foremost in the struggle for hegemony in the Middle East and Central Asia. The USA and NATO does not want Iran's rival 'peace pipeline' to freeze out Western influence in the region.
If liquified natural gas does not flow southwards through TAPI, Russia would have a better bargaining position as significant supplies of Turkmen gas would have to flow to the EU, and especially the newest NATO states such as Poland through a state that seeks to use energy as a tool of diplomacy and power politics.
Russia has been brought back towards a repprochement with the West after US President Barack Obama wanted to 'press the reset button' and work with Putin and Medvedev after what influential advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski termed the 'catastrophic diplomacy' of the Bush presidency with regards Iraq
The aim of bringing Russia back on side under Obama order to prevent the prospect of a collusion between Russia, China and Iran in exerting influence over the oil and gas rich states of post-Soviet Central Asia.The result is Russia is willing to invest in TAPI. For Brzezinski, Iraq was less important in the long run than US and Western influence in Central Asia.
The importance of Central Asia and the New Great Game was confirmed once more just last month when the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visiting New Delhi made this quite clear when she advocated the benefits to the nations through which TAPI will run in working together to "create a new Silk Road".
"That means building more rail lines, highways, energy infrastructure, like the proposed (natural gas) pipeline to run from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan, through Pakistan into India"
Whether those who thought the Afghanistan War was about some abstract political concern to make the world a better place and advance liberal democracy like it or not, there are strong realpolitik reasons for NATO and Britain as the USA's staunch ally to be in Afghanistan.
It could be possible to justify this geopolitical strategy by arguing that if NATO should conclusively defeat the Taliban and the TAPI pipeline is built, then the economic benefits and regional integration of erstwhile nuclear rivals such as India and Pakistan is in the regional and global interests ( as well as helping Afghanistan prosper and develop).
Yet there is little sign that the war in Afghanistan is, in fact, winnable. Besides, the huge demand for heroin in the West ensures that corrupt warlords and the Taliban can cashin on drug export revenues to keep up their armed opposition to NATO. Only the legalisation of heroin would remove the scale of the profits made from opium.
Unfortunately, winning the 'war on drugs' ( cited once by former Prime Minister Blair as another reason for Britain being part of NATO's war ) is an objective that conflicts with the military effort that aims to defeat the Taliban and get the TAPI pipeline contructed.
As no government based on a committment to protecting its citizens from illegal drugs such as heroin has considered legalising them, the war in Afghanistan will remain a futile crusade. If the lives of dedicated professional sericemen are to be saved, street drugs such as heroin will have to be legalised.