Chosen as a Book of the Year by the Sunday Times and the Evening Standard It could have been a very different story. British and US forces could have successfully withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2002, having done the job they set out to do: to defeat al-Qaeda and stop it from launching further terrorist attacks against the West. Yet over the following thirteen years they paid a heavy price for their presence in Helmand province; and when Western troops departed from Afghanistan in 2014, they had failed to stop a Taliban resurgence. In this magisterial study, Theo Farrell explains the origins and causes of the war, providing fascinating insight into the British government’s reaction to 9/11 and the steps that led the British Army to Helmand. He draws on unprecedented access to military reports and government documents, as well as hundreds of interviews with Western commanders, senior figures in the Taliban, Afghan civilians and British politicians. And he demonstrates conclusively that the West’s failure to understand the dynamics of local conflict in the country, and to tackle Afghan government corruption, meant that the war was unwinnable.