I pulled this from MSNBC.com today:
"President Obama’s advisers are coalescing around a strategy for Afghanistan aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers, administration officials said Tuesday, describing an approach that would stop short of an all-out assault on the Taliban while still seeking to nurture long-term stability."
One of the reasons the United States lost in Vietnam was because we controlled the cities and villages, yet we did not control the countryside. The enemy was able to ‘melt away’ into the countryside and we could not force continued engagement that would wipe them out. Historically speaking, this is a typical problem of a conventional army facing irregular forces. Iraq was different.
In Iraq, the desert allowed the U.S. to wipe out the enemy. The desert is one of the most ideal environments for mechanized forces to operate within. The enemy could not ‘melt away’ into the countryside. This allowed us to isolate the battlefield and inflict maximum damage upon the enemy without taking much in the way of losses. The enemy could not disengage. The mismatch of conventional forces firepower against an irregular force who could not ‘melt away’ could only end with victory on the battlefield for the conventional forces.
This is a major reason why the ‘surge’ worked. I see that President Obama and his advisers are either not drawing the same lessons from Vietnam and Iraq, or else are unaware of their significance.