Last Night's TV: Afghanistan: War without End?/BBC2
The Apprentice/BBC1
24 Hours in A&E/Channel 4

About 20 seconds into John Ware's film Afghanistan: War without End? there was a heart-lifting shot of a Chinook landing in an Afghan compound, bright purple smoke swirling into the vortex created by its blades. It was a strangely lovely thing to look at – if you could detach it from its context – but unfortunately it was the only thing to make you smile in an hour-long account of the gap between Western fantasies and Afghan reality. Not a good choice as an anti-depressant, obviously, a documentary about Afghanistan over the past 10 years. But even after you'd made allowance for that the film still managed to lower the spirits.

Ware started with the US government's plans for war lite, a response to the attack on the World Trade Center, which aimed to get the job done fast and relatively cheap. There may even have been a degree of wise strategy in this. As Osama bin Laden's son later made clear what his father wanted most was to lure the US into a long and costly war on his home ground, grinding out their willingness to interfere in the Islamic world just as he'd helped to grind down the will of Soviet Russia. And though it's a reflex in some quarters to assume that only stupidity and arrogance have directed American actions over the past 10 years, it's surely conceivable that someone in Washington saw the trap and thought it was avoidable.

What they hadn't reckoned for – after the unexpected speed of the Taliban's defeat – was that the trap would simply reset itself if they didn't pay attention. Unfortunately, Donald Rumsfeld and his colleagues weren't interested in stabilising Afghanistan permanently, only in securing Kabul for long enough to install Hamid Karzai as the new president. And greedy for an uncompromised revenge for 9/11, which meant that when Karzai suggested co-opting the Taliban into the political process Washington refused. Ten years, billions of dollars and many lives later the Coalition has just brought itself to do what it could have done for free in the immediate aftermath of the war.

Internal evidence suggested Ware wasn't exactly looking hard for proof of success. "The biggest single mistake? Just one? Iraq," said a UN interviewee, hinting at a question that hadn't exactly been neutrally phrased. But then evidence of failure and error isn't very hard to come by. Visiting Lashkar Gah for the first time, the then Foreign Office minister Kim Howells discovered a lawless country where the drug caravans had anti-aircraft weapons and there was no centralised authority. Afghanistan was feudal, breathtakingly corrupt and fissured by tribal rivalries. In Helmand, even the director of education couldn't read or write. And yet the plan was to turn it into hotter, dustier kind of Belgium in just three years.

When the powers that be back in Britain were warned that this might fanciful they simply ignored harsh realities in favour of their own fantastical projections, a recurrent factor in Western approaches to Afghanistan, and one that should make anyone wonder about David Cameron's confident predictions that British troops will be out of the country by 2015. Already, the strategy on the ground has had to be adapted several times and that ambitious plan for pacification considerably adjusted: "Our expectations changed from Belgium in three years to Bangladesh in 30," said one observer, harshly schooled by Afghanistan's notorious reluctance to comply with Western timetables. One sensed, very wearily indeed, that in 30 years they might still be trying.

This week's The Apprentice was the episode where they take a short trip abroad, the remaining 110-per-centers heading off to Paris to flog British designer goods to French retailers. Announcing that she knew nothing about France, had never been there and didn't speak the language, Susan thrust herself forward as project manager, and rapidly confirmed that she hadn't just been modestly self-deprecating when downplaying her skill-set: "Do the French love their children?" she asked, as her team pondered whether to try and flog a collapsible child's car seat. On the other team, Melody, who would sooner paint her face blue than be modestly self-deprecating, ignored the fact that Tom was project manager and took all the decisions anyway. Unfortunately, she took a huge wrong one, dismissing Tom's hunch that the car seat would be a big seller and effectively robbing her team of a £200,000 sale. Fortunately, she had Leon and Tom sitting next to her in the boardroom so there wasn't the faintest possibility that she'd be taking the black cab home. As the prospective sackees did their edifying imitation of crabs in a bucket she ended up on top. Leon – who had been almost struck dumb by Melody's ability to speak another language besides English – headed off, bravely asserting that Lord Sugar was the real loser in this decision.

24 Hours in A&E continues to be strangely engrossing. This week, it focused on Jen, the tough-looking casualty nurse. "I must admit I've got a bit of a warped sense of humour," she said."Like that guy who'd been shot in the penis... That made me laugh for a whole shift." You can't blame her for looking on the funny side, though, given that the alternative would be a shriek of despair. Every shift is a long haul through other people's folly and vice, particularly when, as in last night's episode, two stab victims arrive simultaneously and their respective gang brethren have to be dissuaded from notching up more cases in the waiting room. Helmand doesn't look that far away sometimes.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor