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A British soldier passes a poppy field in Helmand province, 2006. (© John Moore/Getty images)

At the height of the summer, David Cameron flew unannounced into Kabul and Helmand province to explain why, after Britain had spent 12 years battling to defeat the Taliban, he was pressing for talks with them. In open-necked dark shirt and trousers, standing out starkly against the ranks of soldiers in desert fatigues, he shrugged off the recent remarks of Lieutenant-General Nick Carter, Britain’s top general in Afghanistan and Nato’s Deputy Commander in the conflict—that…

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