You know the writing is good when you hope "they" get out before disaster strikes, even when you know this is history and not fiction. The description of the British mission in 1840-42 is "edge of the seat". The writing is excellent, just the right amount of detail (could use a few more comprehensive maps). Some great anecdotes and side stories in a fascinating tour of this key region. This book is an argument for good marketing plan. The cover is boring and no blurbs to grab attention. Looks like a bland textbook. Sadly, the quality of the book plunges at the end. He attributes the "Black Hawk Down" incident to Bush 41 and says it cost the election. Sorry, wrong. He races through the '90's Taliban story with no context. He excoriates the US for not sending in the 82nd/101st divisions for OP Enduring Freedom and into Tora Bora. He had just covered 2500 years of saying the only way to unite the Afghan tribes was a foreign invader. The choice to employ Afghan tribes to go after the Taliban and Bin Laden was a decent one, based on long history. Somehow he drags Vietnam Syndrome into the discussion wth a lame explanation for policy. Stop reading after the last Soviets cross the Friendship Bridge and you have a good read.