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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggested last week that the United States could wrap up combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2013, well before the longstanding 2014 deadline when full control is to be ceded to Kabul. Troops would remain in Afghanistan until 2014, as agreed upon at the 2010 Lisbon Summit, and would be engaged in two roles until at least 2014 and perhaps even later. One role would be continuing the training of Afghan security forces. The other would involve special operations troops carrying out capture or kill operations against high-value targets.

Contrary to official coalition optimism and the increased captures and killings of Taliban operatives, Taliban has risen as a phenomenon confident of victory. And this is now a war in which perception of relative strength is becoming increasingly important as well. The planned withdrawal of foreign forces by 2014 obviously had something to do with this, and Mr Panetta’s announcement to withdraw in 2013 will only strengthen the Taliban’s perception that coming into power is simply a matter of time.


It is noteworthy that since attack by NATO/US forces that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year, U.S. operations have become less aggressive both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This in part reflects a realization of the limits of U.S. military power in Afghanistan. Regardless of the motive, the Taliban interpret it as a signal -- and it is understood in Washington as a signal, too. US relationship with Pakistan has been seriously damaged and a counterterrorism alliance can survive only in a limited form, thus the need for US to withdraw from Afghanistan earlier than planned. We feel it shall suit all and sundry.


 It has become a bit too common that West takes pot shot at Pakistan’s “agenda”. Ikram Sehgal a brilliant journalist and strategist of international repute says “Every country has an agenda about its core interests; anybody who claims otherwise is a hypocrite. Our “agenda” is real, the 3 million refugees on our soil and the long difficult border we share with Afghanistan. The US can walk away at will whenever they are militarily and/or economically and/or emotionally exhausted and the US public cannot bear further loss of US lives fighting a war with no crucial interest or strategic meaning for the US.  To quote then US Senator (and now) President Barack Obama in an anti-war rally in Chicago in 2002, “I am not opposed to wars, I am opposed to a dumb war,” a decade later his Presidency is bogged down trying to extricate the US military with honour from a really dumb war. The US can still “declare victory and go home”, Pakistan does not have the luxury of walking away, we will have to cope with the bloody aftermath and clear their mess like we have done previously.


Many  Pakistani feel that Pakistan has not done enough and it needs to do more to make the US realize that Pakistan shall not in future compromise on its national interest and its sovereignty. Drone attacks have restarted after Pakistan reacted to 24 soldiers being killed by her strategic partners NATO/US well in side Pakistan border. Though the US has restricted drone strikes, the closure of land route to supplies is also beginning to bite. It is simply too expensive for the US to use alternative routes and with the threat of closure from Russia as well, sustaining operations in Afghanistan by NATO and US has become a nightmare. In fact this could be a contributing factor to the announcement of revised date of US withdraw in 2013.

 The overwhelming public perception is that Pakistan must ease its dependence on the US. It must review and re-evaluate the entire relationship with US realistically but with some rather unusual courage and resolve.  Not the hawks but pragmatic strategist have told LISA that Pakistan should not only close the use of  land route for logistic supplies to the forces of occupation in Afghanistan for well over 10 years but should not permit its soil or airspace to be used for such purposes. They contend that it is not in the national interest of both Pakistan and Afghanistan to support the occupational forces. It is a geopolitical compulsion for Pakistan to have good relations with Afghan people and Afghan government that truly represents Afghans. Pakistan has no need to fall once again into the bait of economic assistance, threat of closure of all economic assistance or be unduly intimidated and must look into long term abiding core interest of their country.

 Pakistan needs to show some spine to ask US to withdraw all its CIA/ intelligence operatives and members of Special Forces to leave Pakistan. Their presence has in no way helped Pakistan and in fact has added to the destabilization of this hapless country currently being ruled by the most corrupt regime that is totally subservient to the wishes of the US. Many consider it as a puppet of the US that would do their bidding at all costs. This regime is at war with its own people, its superior judiciary, its armed forces and its intelligence service, ISI.


 The Memogate scandal, contempt of court by it he unworthy Prime minister, flagrant disobedience of the orders of the Supreme Court and openly insulting and defying the Supreme Court on national media reflect that it is hell bent upon destroying all institutions. Before it is too late the Supreme Court of Pakistan has to show some spine to have its order implemented since it has the total support of the people and the armed forces. There are those who see the prevalent political impasse in Pakistan as deliberate.  They think it is part of an evolving US foreign policy agenda, which favours disruption and disarray in the structures of the Pakistani State. Indirect rule by the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus is to be replaced by more direct forms of US interference, including an expanded US military presence inside Pakistan and totally subservient stooges at the helm of affair in Pakistan.

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