What if America had never invaded Afghanistan?

Osmani then made an offer. “I can track Osama down and kill him if you like,” he said. “But I can’t use my own troops. That would be too public; my role would be known. For that, I have to find outside operatives. This will take time.”

I shook my head: It wouldn’t work. “Washington will see this as a delaying tactic,” I told him. “They might have listened to this months ago, before 9/11, but it’s too late now. The United States is preparing for all-out war as we speak. If you want a risk-free solution, you won’t find it. If you want to save the Taliban and your country, you’re going to have to take risks.”

Osmani’s voice took on a desperate tone: “Your threats have created big problems for us. Afghans are reacting emotionally…” His voice trailed away.

“If threats have been made, they can’t be unmade,” I broke in. “There’s no point in trying to change the past. The point is to find a way to save Afghanistan.”

Osmani paused, and slumped lower in his chair. He suddenly looked very tired, played out. There was nothing left to say. He removed his turban, and put it aside. Looking down, he said: “Then you suggest a solution.”

This was the opportunity I’d hoped for.