Taliban enter Kabul as Afghan government collapses

When the US and its allies went into Afghanistan in October 2001 they quickly realised they didn’t really understand what kind of place they were dealing with.

They sent cultural anthropologists to remote military outposts in an attempt to understand tribal customs and dynamics.

Officers drank tea with local elders, and held endless jirgas – or legal assemblies – with village leaders.

I watched one in the hills outside Jalalabad. The American officer holding it was sincere, thoughtful and, I remember thinking, baffled.

The West thought that if it built enough bridges, sent enough girls to school, ploughed up enough poppy fields and, crucially, spent billions creating an army modelled in its own image, Afghans would be won over and the new government would be able to stand on its own two feet.

But the bafflement never really went away and the Taliban were simply biding their time, waiting for us to lose interest.