For many of its participants, the conflict in Afghanistan turned into the longest deployment in history. British combat troops were withdrawn in 2014 but a military presence remained to help train local forces. The Americans wound down their frontline operations in 2016 but also retained thousands of soldiers.
As part of Donald Trump’s determination to disengage from the world’s trouble spots, an agreement was reached with the Taliban, though not a ceasefire since the official government was excluded from the talks. Instead, a “reduction in violence” was agreed with a clear understanding that the two sides would not attack each other.
It now transpires that the Russian secret service bribed Taliban commanders to break this pact. A GRU intelligence unit behind the attempted murder in Salisbury of the double agent Sergei Skripal offered a bounty to fighters to kill British and American soldiers.
Although President Trump says he was not aware of this activity security sources on both sides of the Atlantic have confirmed it. The Russians deny it, accusing the New York Times where the story first appeared of “fake news”. But as we saw with events in Salisbury, they deny everything.
The Taliban also say it is not true and maintain they have not needed an excuse in the past to kill occupying troops – except that this time they were bound by the Doha agreement. It is a reversal of what happened in the 1980s when western agents armed and paid the groups that would eventually become the Taliban to wage war on Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
It says much about the distorted reality of modern politics that these shocking revelations have led the Left to attack President Trump and Boris Johnson rather than the real culprit in the Kremlin.