The head of the British Army, General Sir David Richards, has issued a wake-up call to the public by warning of the "terrifying prospect" of a defeat in Afghanistan.
In his first interview as the head of the Army, Sir David told The Sunday Telegraph that if Britain and Nato failed in Afghanistan the risks to the western world would be "enormous" and "unimaginable".
The general's intervention comes at a crucial time, with the US General in charge of operations in Afghanistan calling for more troops to be sent to the country to fight the Taliban.
At home, the Government has come under increasing pressure for the way it has handled the war, with critics saying the armed forces have been under-resourced.
Yesterday The Daily Telegraph reported that the Prime Minister believes that he has been "let down" over the running of the Afghan War by Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the chief of the defence staff. Suggestions that Sir Jock may be forced to step down, however, have been denied by senior defence sources.
The increasing tensions come against a background of rising British casualties.
Yesterday the Ministry of Defence named a 24-year-old member of the Royal Air Force Regiment who died in a blast near Camp Bastion in Helmand on Thursday. Aircraftman Marcin Wojtak is the 219th member of the armed forces to have died in Afghanistan since the conflict began in 2001.
Sir David has issued his unprecedented warning because he believed the public and even members of the government had not "woken up" to the "enormous risks" which would result if the war was lost.
He said: "Failure would have a catalytic effect on militant Islam around the world and in the region because the message would be that al-Qaeda and the Taliban have defeated the US and the British and Nato, the most powerful alliance in the world. So why wouldn't that have an intoxicating effect on militants everywhere? The geo-strategic implications would be immense."