In less than a week, Taliban forces have been swept from most of northern Afghanistan, including the key cities of Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kunduz, Taloqan, Bamiyan, Jalalabad and the capital Kabul. The question is: How did a force that only two months ago controlled most of Afghanistan get swept from the battlefield so quickly, and is the battle over?

In the Saturday (November 17) issue of the Jang - the biggest daily paper in Pakistan, the well-known columnist Munnoo Bhai published extensive extracts from Alan's article The fall of Kabul with the comment that this is the "best analysis one can find anywhere". The Jang newspaper is read by up to 20 million people every day, and Munnoo Bhai's column is widely read.

"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.