In his book examining the many mistakes that littered the decision and policy making around America's involvement in Vietnam, the then Defence Secretary Robert McNamara lists the major causes for, as he calls it, the 'disaster in Vietnam'. From defining the mission, setting clear objectives and ensuring sound communication within and between governments.
A majority of these seem equally applicable to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan:
-We misjudged the intentions of our adversaries and exaggerated the dangers of their actions;
-We saw in [our allies] a determination to fight for freedom and democracy. We totally misjudged the political forces within the country;
-We underestimated the power of nationalism [for Afghanistan Islam] to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values;
-Our misjudgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of history, culture, and politics of the people in the area;
-We do not have the right to shape every nation in our own image or as we choose;
-We failed to recognise the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment. We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture;
-We failed to recognise that in international affairs there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions;
-We failed to analyse and debate our actions - our objectives, the risks and cost of alternative ways of dealing with them - and the necessity of changing course when failure was clear.
For all of these reasons it looks to me that the sooner we remove ourselves from Afghanistan the better.