Dissatisfaction at US failure to make troop decision
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's speech on Friday morning was intended to make the case for a continued British combat role in Afghanistan after another grim week of casualties.
But although he did lay out some new ideas, such as setting five benchmarks for improved performance by the Afghan government, the prime minister was limited to spinning the rhetorical rotors without actually taking flight.
The thing that has grounded him and other Nato leaders is the continued absence of a clear line from Washington.
How could Mr Brown have been more adamant about the current counter-insurgency strategy or the need for more troops to execute it, if he knows that at any time the White House might change its mind?
President Barack Obama received the McChrystal report calling for a troop surge on 30 August, and with each week that passes without a decision the political difficulties of his allies across Nato multiply.
When Britain announced in mid-October that it would, if certain conditions were met, send another 500 troops to Afghanistan, Whitehall felt it was on a promise from the Obama team.
As Newsnight reported at the time, one top insider suggested not just that Britain had been promised there would be a substantial US reinforcement, but that it would be General Stanley McChrystal's option of around 45,000 troops, and that its announcement was imminent.
So what does he say now? When asked recently, my contact characterised the continued lack of a clear statement of the way ahead from Mr Obama as, "disgraceful".
These views, given non-attributably, are simpler a stronger version of what one can see in the public domain.
Back in October Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Britain's senior serviceman, insisted that the Allies were still all committed to the counter-insurgency strategy and that he was, "confident" he knew which way the US would go on the troop increase question.
In the absence of an announcement, confidence in ministries from Ottawa to Berlin is faltering.
"What is the goal? What is the road? and in the name of what?" asked French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner earlier this week, adding menacingly, "Where are the Americans? It begins to be a problem".
Field Marshal Lord Inge, speaking in a defence debate in the House of Lords earlier on Friday said the US' delay sent, "a very bad message".
Talking to Nick Horne earlier this week, home after several years working as an official for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in Kabul, he reckoned the Obama administration had carried out seven different reviews of Afghan policy.
From their electoral victory one year ago to the present, Afghan policy has been in a state of flux.
The criticism is not simply code for "Why doesn't Obama just get on with the troop increase"?
There are plenty in European governments who would be delighted if the president announced that the US intends to withdraw from Afghanistan as quickly as possible.
What people want is a decision.
Now the White House is suggesting that there could be an announcement in a fortnight's time. So the present limbo is set to continue.
It is all the stranger because Mr Obama has not yet endorsed the strategy set out in the McChrystal report, something Nato defence ministers did at a meeting two weeks ago.
The US' own defence secretary, Robert Gates, has called publicly for the matter to be resolved swiftly.
Some Obama supporters have stressed the importance of measuring such vital life and death decisions carefully.
Gen McChrystal himself has been loyal enough to his commander in chief to echo them, remarking that it is better it be done properly than rapidly.
The shambolic outcome of the Afghan presidential elections has complicated matters politically, but it hardly de-railed some great policy juggernaut that had been careering along smoothly until then.
Looking though at the succession of reviews and the tangled logic in the one definitive presidential statement on "Af-Pak strategy" given back at the end of March, it is evident that the administration has had great difficulty deciding what it thinks about the Afghan conflict.
Instead we have witnessed what people in Whitehall describe with increasing frankness as a failure of leadership.