If war is a psychological game as much as a military one, this week in Afghanistan we suffered one of our biggest set-backs. The numbers add up to a painful equation. Six men dead. The single largest loss of British life in a single incident in Afghanistan since 2006. The roll-call of British men lost to this war tipping over 400. The sums left a nation in shock and thrust the issue of Britain's involvement in Afghanistan back onto the front pages.
As the families of Sergeant Nigel Coupe, Corporal Jake Hartley, Private Anthony Frampton, Private Christopher Kershaw, Private Daniel Wade and Private Daniel Wilford came to terms with their loss, vocal opponents and supporters of our armed forces' deployment in the region stepped in to fill their dignified silence.
In an open letter to David Cameron, the mother of the 100th solider killed in Afghanistan, Carla Cuthbertson, begged the prime minister to bring all troops home. Carla lost her eldest son, Nathan, four years ago when he was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber. Her youngest son, Connan, is due to fly out to Helmand next year. In her heartfelt letter she explained, 'I believed then he had died for a noble cause. Now, as I send my youngest son to war, I beg you to end this bloodshed... No more young men and women should die in this conflict. Nathan did give his life for something he believed in. But when another 100 lives had been lost, I started to question why we were sending soldiers to Afghanistan. Now I feel this is not a war we're going to win and I don't want any more families to suffer like mine.'
Other bereaved parents have taken a different stance. Bob Wright, whose son Corporal Mark Wright GC died in Afghanistan in 2003, urged Cameron to stay the course and not leave until the country was back on its feet. "We are there now, so we need to wipe out the Taliban and get kids back to school and help sort out the country, and then leave," he said.
The commanding officer of the six fallen men, agreed, saying it was their regiment's duty not to abandon the task in hand. "It has been a sad day but as their brothers in arms we remain committed in our duty to continue with our mission," he told reporters outside the troop's barracks in Warminster. "They would want nothing less."
In this war, as in so many others, there aren't just two sides to the argument, and every one affected deserves to have their voice heard.
Tragedy too struck in Nigeria this week when hostage Chris McManus and his Italian colleague Franco Lamolinara died during a failed rescue mission by British and Nigerian Special Forces. Abducted last year while working on a construction project, the two men have been the subject of an intense search and intelligence mission ever since. Predictably, the bloodbath left by their kidnappers - many of whom also died during the cross-fire - has sparked a war of words between the two men's governments. Is now really the time for recrimination? A far more relevant debate would, it seems, be around the growing terrorist cells in the country, and how best to ensure similar catastrophes can be prevented.
On Thursday, we mark the first anniversary of the Syria uprising. Fifty-two weeks after the conflict started, the country is still in turmoil with the tidal-wave of refugees spilling over the border to Turkey gaining momentum by the day.
As Oxfam's Phil Bloomer wrote in his Huffington Post UK blog yesterday, "Nothing is more important than stopping the killing on all sides. Unlike many crises we face, with a tangled mix of political and 'natural' causes, Syria is a political crisis caused by a government refusing its people's right to be heard. Easy to solve? Of course not. But its direct political cause does mean it is amenable to international political pressure - if the world has the will to exert it."
While wars rage oversees, lest we forget the last 12 months weren't exactly peace and happiness at home. Last summer's riots may seem like something of a bad dream now, but loose ends are still being tied up and great swathes of society are still working to ensure they never happen again.
This week, the rioter who broke Malaysian student Ashraf Rossli's jaw, before cycling off and leaving two 'good Samaritans' to help him to his feet and then steal the Playstation out of his rucksack, was jailed for seven years. While judge Witold Pawlak told convicted Beau Isagba he hoped his sentence would serve to "make other like-minded people think before they behave in a similar way to you, and also reassure the public and visitors to our country that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated", Rossli said he had forgiven all his attackers. "I'm not angry, seriously," he insisted. "The only thing I would think about is, I want to go on with my life and my jaw is healing, so I guess there's no point in worrying about them."
For Charlie Taylor, the government's discipline adviser, this week marked the long-awaited publication of his Improving Alternative Provision report, commissioned after the riots.
"Two-year-olds to have anger-management classes," screamed the headlines, boiling Taylor's recommendations down to one throwaway line. And, in one fell swoop glossing over the whys and wherefores. He might be an ex-Etonian, but Taylor is no stranger to classrooms of angry children, thanks to his six years as the head-teacher of the Willows Special School in west London, which opens its doors to excluded primary school children. He's been attacked, punched, spat and screamed at, ensuring he of many is best placed to remark to The Times, "if we just hope the problem will go away... it will get bigger". He also acknowledges that the riots could easily happen again, that "the social implications of not addressing this are huge".
As we fight wars at home and abroad, it makes sense to listen to every side of the argument, debate every cause and effect, and examine every suggested solution. It is the only way to move forwards.
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