9/11 attacks 20 years on: How the 'war on terror' turned full circle | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: DENY X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

9/11 attacks 20 years on: How the 'war on terror' turned full circle

It was the early hours of the morning by the time I reached the banks of the Panj, the river that marks Tajikistan’s southern border. It was shivering cold, and dark.

The Tajik border guards had been good natured, but they had also been drunk and had gone about their business slowly. The Russians at the post further down the rutted track - the real border guards - were less drunk, but also more serious, and equally slow.

The ferry across the river was a flat barge with a tractor engine bolted in its middle. It was propelled by means of a winch attached to the engine, through which passed an enormous hawser. Either end of this thick rope was moored on the opposite banks of the Panj. We were tugged slowly across to Afghanistan.

The ferry halted with a bump and I stepped onto land. There was no light whatsoever. I am not sure that I had ever experienced such darkness.

On my back was a 65-litre rucksack containing a sleeping bag and liner, clothes, provisions and cooking equipment. Strapped to my chest was a bag holding a satellite phone and laptop. In each hand I clutched large and cumbersome containers of clean water.