Bonn conference of 2002 had made commendable claims and big pledges of aid in 2002. Their implementation ended as a whimper due, mainly, to make-believe disbursement and unexpected developments. However, the security situation as well as the corruption among the US surrogates appears to have made the ground realities worse than before. Despite some wishful statements from the "foreign forces" and sometimes by US/ NATO officials, the omens are not encouraging. Now there was a Paris Conference for the same purpose which pledged $21 billion for the rehabilitation of the destroyed country. Afghanistan, as per one report, had to bear Bunker-busters/daisy-cutters worth more than $1 billion in post 9/11 US campaign launched due to the "suspicion" that the Taliban abetted OBL' twin-towers  attack. Speeches at Paris were made by the participants who emphasised on the Mission Statement. They also squarely condemned the widespread corruption in the ranks of the regime in Kabul. One can only hope that the history of Bonn Conference will not repeat itself and the Afghans will be able to benefit from the "democracy" under "occupation." Does money hold the only key to success in Afghanistan? Robert Burns of AP disagrees with such a dictum in a recent column. He claims, "The currency that counts most is a rich mixture of political and military progress." David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, counselled close cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan to stem the growth of terrorism in border regions of the two countries. George W Bush in a joint press conference with Gordon Brown in London echoed the same. He, in fact, urged that the two neighbours hold the traditional jirga as done once before. Afghanistan also emerged as the top agenda in a two-day Conference of NATO Defence ministers held in Brussels, almost, simultaneously. Admiral Mullen, the US chairman joint chiefs has repeatedly been urging, like many other American leaders, NATO to increase its forces supporting the ISAF etc. By the same token, the admiral has been predicting another deadly attack on US anytime soon by the Al-Qaeda leadership holed up, reportedly, in the areas which form the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. His deputy, Vice Admiral Sullivan, representing his boss at NATO, simply repeated his boss' version. The US establishment appeared to be at ease in dealing with ex-General Musharraf when he was calling all the shots. Now "their man" has been, generally, sidelined following the developments of February 18 elections in Pakistan. As representative governments have come up, which are accountable to the people, the old order appears condemned to a marginal role in the country politics. Realising that bloodshed and creation of bad-blood for the last seven years have only strengthened the extremists in the area, they are trying to give local traditions/diplomacy a chance. As all the tribesmen are not terrorists, they are trying to build up alliances with those who disagree with the extremists in FATA and Swat. It is a roller-coaster drive but, so far, it appears to be no worse than what has gone on despite the massive use of force. The US etc tend to see this as a negative development. As Karzai is unable to control the south or the east, where he is seen as a "surrogate of the US," he passes his jitters to the US/NATO quite frequently. The recent attack on him in a military parade should have been an eye-opener. However, the bandwagon refuses to face the reality and the problem of extremism in the area gets compounded which threatens Pakistan. As if Karzai's misery was not enough, the Taliban appear to have dealt a severe blow to his debilitated authority by storming the Kandahar prison. Reports indicate that about 1100 hundred prisoners including more than 500 Taliban made their escape. In a country with civil war conditions such a depressing event may prove to be as important as the fall of Bastille for the French Revolution. The reaction of the beleaguered "proxy" in Kabul appears to have been theatrical. He vowed to attack Pakistan if such an attack occurred again. Such antics may up the ante and give him media-publicity but it would further aggravate his helplessness while compounding Pakistan' problems. In a latter statement, he said that he would attack Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban commander in Wazirastan, and not Pakistan. The former claims that the latter is helping the Taliban in Afghanistan. Perhaps, he overlooked the fact that Kandhar is far away from the border. Pakistan has made it clear that it would defend its territorial integrity against all odds. The current policy of holding Afghanistan through surrogates passing for "democracy" and supported by about 70,000 foreign forces runs foul of the local history. It is a known fact that the Afghans do not relish "occupation" which was proved in the late 80s by their fight against the Soviet Union with the all-out help of the US and Pakistan. Such ethos stays even now. The Taliban were derided in the year 2000 for their oppressive rule though they provided security/downtrodden existence. As the new dispensation failed to provide both, generally, to the people, Karzai is now, generally, seen in a bad light and called the "US mayor of Kabul." Such resentment has been aggravated by the generous concessions made to the northern warlords by the US as well as the indiscriminate use of force to suppress dissent. The reconstruction effort appears to have suffered from discrimination as well as massive corruption. Major beneficiary has been, generally, the North which tends to alienate the other party. Likewise, opium poppy cultivation was started by the suborned northern warlords while their compatriots in the South were at the receiving end and faced with starvation. Taking a leaf out of their in-power countrymen' conduct, they followed suit and Taliban chipped in by providing security to such operations. Policy failures as well as poor governance appear to have, generally, united the Pashtuns against the status quo which is seen as "foreign occupation" and not "democracy." Moreover as the Afghan army and the police have a marginal role, foreign forces, particularly the dangerous drones, figure too often in encounters etc, particularly in Kabul. This is like a red-rag to an average Afghan. Indiscriminate use of force already appears to have failed. A viable solution in Afghanistan can be promoted by diplomacy or local traditions. The Taliban have spurned US' overtures for a negotiated settlement so far, insisting on an end to "occupation" as a pre-condition to a settlement. It is time the UN's good offices are utilised with massive help from Pakistan. The new democratic government may prove a God-sent for promoting peace in this highly volatile area which remains the "crossroads of the world" as per Arnold Toynbee. The writer is a former secretary interior E-mail: imnor@brain.net.pk