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Scotland on Sunday by Kenny Farquharson

The Commander of the British Army in Afghanistan is standing on a scrap of waste ground in the centre of a dusty town called Musa Qala. There is an awful stench in the air. It comes from a dead dog, half-buried under a tree, its rotting head exposed to the air. "Shall we take a look at the bazaar," asks Brigadier Andrew Mackay, in the tone of voice someone might use when suggesting an afternoon visit to Jenners tearoom.

The brigadier's companions try hard to hide their alarm. "I'm not sure your BG (bodyguard] would like that idea very much, sir," says a nearby officer. The 6ft 3in bodyguard, who is called Dave, is impassive behind designer shades. There is a pause, and all eyes are on the brigadier. "Let's just take a peek," says Mackay, and walks down a narrow alley, its high walls made from mud and poppy straw, towards a metal gate that leads to the town's main thoroughfare.

A moment later, Mackay, 51, is wandering 200 yards down the main street of a town that until recently was the Taliban's urban stronghold in Afghanistan, before it was recaptured by Afghan, British and American forces on December 11..............

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