The Soviet tank commander was angry. His country had made its boldest ever move in international relations by staging the Olympics and here he was with no part to play. He was stationed with his men on a lifeless rocky outcrop, among the lice, dirt and blood in Afghanistan. Détente with the west was over. Comrade Brezhnev made sure of that when he sent thousands of his soldiers across the border from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

His men were issued with orders on Christmas Eve 1979 to keep the Moscow-backed Kabul government in power. The American CIA was arming and backing the Taliban rebels who were passionately fighting a holy war.

While the snow and cold of the long mountain winter turned to heat and dust, the tank commander’s thoughts were not on the Taliban and Mujahadeen he faced each day, but on why he’d chosen to be a tank commander and not a KGB spy.