For those of us of a certain age, it seems like only yesterday. But it's been 10 years since the start of the Afghanistan war. Circa Oct. 7-8, 2001 — less than a month after the attacks of 9/11 — U.S. aircraft began bombing Taliban positions in Afghanistan. Little more than a month later, on Nov. 13, the Northern Alliance, with the aid of CIA and Special Forces advisers, entered Kabul. On Dec. 22, the suave, English-speaking Hamid Karzai was sworn in as head of a pro-Western provisional government.
The only event that marred those heady days was Osama bin Laden's escape at the battle of Tora Bora in early December. But, considering how badly American forces were supposed to have fared in "the graveyard of empires" — on Oct. 31, R.W. "Johnny" Apple had published a "news analysis" in the New York Times titled "Afghanistan as Vietnam" — events had appeared to work out miraculously well.
So what happened? Why has Afghanistan turned into one of the longest wars in American history? It has already lasted longer than the direct fighting by U.S. troops in Vietnam, its length exceeded only by the conflicts against the Indians from the early 1600s to 1890.