“The people are like sheep without a shepherd. Dogs attack us from all sides,” said the councillor.

Nato wants to win in Afghanistan by protecting ordinary people from the insurgents, but the Taleban is so strong in Helmand that all three men openly questioned whether British and US troops had in fact been helping the militants instead of fighting them. It is a conspiracy theory this reporter has heard repeatedly for more than two years.

“The Taleban can go anywhere they want. They can kill anyone they like,” said the senator. The government official admitted he paid tax on land he owns in Nawa district. “If I didn’t pay they would just take my wheat,” he said.