"The Marines have landed and the situation is under control." This kind of headline was very common in the 1930s, when the USA had a habit of intervening with tedious regularity in the territory of small states in Central America. Now history seems to be repeating itself - but with a difference. The marines referred to here are, of course, American. While the US marine corps is grabbing the headlines of the world press, a couple of hundred British marines are kicking their heels on the outskirts of Bagram airstrip, while a couple of thousand of their comrades are kept hanging around on army bases in Britain, unloved and unwanted, while Tony Blair fumes in impotent humiliation.

This well researched book was written (by Ahmed Rashid) before the events of September 11th 2001. The author is a journalist who has worked in Afghanistan since 1979. It has been described by The Guardian as the book which is being read by Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell, who allegedly have been heavily influenced by the book. Do not let that deter you from reading this book! It remains to be seen if they have really been influenced by it.

"Inaction is not an option," declares George W. Bush, seeking to extend the "war on terror" to Iraq. But the recent heavy fighting between US and Afghan forces and the Taliban in Afghanistan gives the lie to those who say the war is over. It is dawning on the military strategists that victory cannot be won by air power alone, and combat troops will be required on the ground for some time to come. However, using Afghan forces has proved complicated, as the warlords - newly armed by the Americans - seek to reassert their influence.