Iraq was, and is a struggle against multiple insurgencies, numerous ethnic groups vying for power, and a number of terror networks--all of whom may hate America, but they may hate each other more than they hate us. Similarly, the Taliban and other networks in Afghanistan compete with al Qaeda in many respects.
In Iraq we blundered around for several years more or less assuming that the Sunni Arab fighters who opposed us in arms were a monolith. The smart people and cognoscenti on the ground knew better than that, but the "system" as a whole did not.
In 2006, the US government finally "got the idea" that there were many groups and that a lot of them had been senselessly alienated by the policies of the Bush Administration. That was sorted out in what the neocons like to "shorthand" as the "surge" and things have been on the mend in Iraq ever since. May the Sunni/Shia divide erupt once again in the context of US withdrawal? Certainly, especially if the US is so foolish as to think that its recent Sunni friends will accept abandonment.
Now we are facing up to the issues of tribal and Islamic resistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan to governments and ultimately to the anti-terrorist goals of the United States. Are we as invincibly ignorant with regard to the panoply of forces and groups in these places as we were in Iraq? Are we? Let us think more fully, more in the way of the people who live in these places.
The assumption that the Afghanistan-Pakistan problem set is one monolihic object is stupid and wrong. Let us do better than that this time.
I'll never forget one of the best history classes I took in college--The Modern Middle East. During that class, our professor noted that the many of the terror networks which arose in Israel during the 1960s resembled the movie "Monty Python and the Life of Bryan"--during which many similarly named terror networks, (i.e., "The People's Front for the Liberaton of Judea", "The Popular Front for the Liberation of Judea", "The Popular Peoples' Front for the Liberation of Judea", "Free Judea Now", etc.) fought each other almost as much as they fought the Romans in Palestine. Indeed, Monty Python is the most brilliant act ever.
"All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a freshwater system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"