10th Anniversary of the Afghanistan War: the limits of power

Guardian Editorial – The short war has become a long war which even now, on the 10th anniversary, we do not know how to end.

America and Britain invaded Afghanistan 10 years ago, for reasons which were understandable, to wage a short war that was unavoidable. We stayed, through all the twists and turns imposed by events and by the incoherence of our own changing policies, for reasons which have become less and less understandable. The short war has become a long war which even now we do not know how to end. The ambition to remake Afghanistan on the western model has been silently discarded.

Optimistic generals have come and gone. Increasingly sceptical diplomats have filed ever more pessimistic dispatches to their capitals. Idealistic aid agencies have seen their work prosper, only to find it blighted by shifts in the balance between government and insurgents or undermined by corruption. Journalists have written their reports and made their television programmes. Mercenaries have made their money and consultants have taken their fees. The invaders have changed, and so have the Taliban in ways that are still evolving. There have been many books, some of them bestsellers, some of them illuminating, some meretricious, some self-serving. And, at home, endless comment. The only reason for adding to that quantity is that an anniversary of this kind has a sobering effect.