When police stopped a van that was travelling across central Afghanistan to the western city of Herat, they were in for a big surprise: it was full of Western tourists.

The visitors’ presence in one of the world’s most dangerous countries made headlines on Thursday after their vehicle, now under police escort, was caught in a suspected Taliban ambush.

It is debatable whether the presence of security forces endangered the tourists’ lives or saved them – at least five foreigners were slightly wounded.

But their trip across a stretch of country widely seen to be risky underlined the dangers such travellers face, and the difficulty Afghanistan’s stretched police force has in protecting them.