Britain's most senior generals have issued a blunt warning to Downing Street that the military campaign in Afghanistan is facing a catastrophic failure, a development that could lead to an Islamist government seizing power in neighbouring Pakistan.
Amid fears that London and Washington are taking their eye off Afghanistan as they grapple with Iraq, the generals have told Number 10 that the collapse of the government in Afghanistan, headed by Hamid Karzai, would present a grave threat to the security of Britain.
Lord Inge, the former chief of the defence staff, highlighted their fears in public last week when he warned of a 'strategic failure' in Afghanistan. The Observer understands that Inge was speaking with the direct authority of the general staff when he made an intervention in a House of Lords debate.
'The situation in Afghanistan is much worse than many people recognise,' Inge told peers. 'We need to face up to that issue, the consequence of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for Nato... We need to recognise that the situation - in my view, and I have recently been in Afghanistan - is much, much more serious than people want to recognise."
The consequences of failure in Afghanistan are far greater than in Iraq,' he said. 'If we fail in Afghanistan then Pakistan goes down. The security problems for Britain would be massively multiplied. I think you could not then stop a widening regional war that would start off in warlordism but it would become essentially a war in the end between Sunni and Shia right across the Middle East.'
And if Pakistan, a country with nuclear weapons, goes down then the west will be dealing with a real nuclear threat - unlike the frenzied case currently being manufactured about Iran (which has agreed to IAEA inspections now.)
In Pakistan on Saturday, 34 Pakistani soldiers were killed by suicide bombers near the Afghan border. Pakistan is in turmoil, as is its leader.
The escalating violence along the frontier, a haven for Pakistani and foreign extremists, follows the government's bloody attack on Islamabad's Red Mosque that sparked calls for revenge from radical groups.
Pakistani commandos overran the mosque Wednesday, ending an eight-day siege with a hard-line cleric and his militant supporters. More than 100 died during the standoff.
With Sunday's attack, at least 63 people have been killed in bombings and shootings in the north since the Red Mosque crisis began July 3.
Twenty-nine troops were wounded in Saturday's attack in North Waziristan, one of the deadliest suicide bombings in Pakistan in recent months, said Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad.
So, while the Harper government wants to focus on happy puppy stories, the region is imploding and after various governments and politicians have begged for more NATO troops in an attempt to save the mission, that call has fallen on deaf ears. It seems the time for begging is over. What's needed is a workable strategy but, as Lord Ashdown warns:
'There is a very short shelf life for an occupation force. Once that begins to shift against you it is very very difficult to turn it round.'
So, once again Canadians are right to question exactly what we're still doing there and what, if anything, we're actually accomplishing.