There have been successful counter insurgencies all over the world that have been fought since the second world war by, amongst others, the British (Malaya, Oman, Kenya, Northern Ireland ish), French (Algeria, though that is debatable) and the United States have taken on the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and various insurgencies with various levels of success in South America. The point is you would think that they know what they are doing, that after all of these experiences a coherent strategy might be in order. Something a little bit more coherent than a temporary "surge".
The British fought unsuccessful insurgencies, such as in Aden ending in 1967 with another ignominious withdrawal from a former colony. One of the mistakes made during the counter insurgency was to announce the withdrawal date of British forces. Not many locals saw the point of aiding British forces once they had announced that they were leaving regardless. So it is astonishing that Obama's military advisors would allow him to make the same mistake in Afghanistan. By announcing that the withdrawal of US forces will start in 2011 Obama has sabotaged his own war effort.
More than that, by insisting on creating an Afghan national army, by sending their soldiers out on patrols aimed at winning hearts and minds, but hearts and minds are not won by the kinds of operations we were privileged to watch on Ross Kemp's Afghanistan series or that we read about from reporters on the scene. It's not just me that thinks so, check out this guy and this guy and this guy when senior officers in the British Army are criticising the Ministry of Defence the American strategy in Iraq and the governments handling of said wars perhaps its time to start listening. Every aspect of the war in Iraq has been criticised from the acquisition of equipment to the conduct of the campaign to the incompetence of Karzai's government allowing the establishment of a shadow government by the Taliban and they have been criticised by the most important men in the British military.
Hearts and minds has become a media buzzword and all around umbrella term for operations involving coalition troops. The truth is that the term refers to a strategy formulated specifically in order to defeat an insurgency of the nature of Afghanistan and that could well pay dividends in Iraq. It certainly succeeded in Oman...twice!
But for my recipe for success you are going to have to wait for part two!