The news that Pakistan had agreed to carry out military operations against terrorists holed up in NWAis an obvious outcome of the recent thoroughly abrasive Hillary-Mullenvisit. The body language of all participants of these mission oriented parleys - both US and Pakistani, said it all. The US has finally got Pakistan right where she wanted her in the first place -on the back foot and on the defensive. Theattack on the GHQ, the Abbottabadand the PNS Mehran debaclesamongst otherterrorist attacks on LEAs created the conditions whichplaced the Government, the Armed Forces and the agencies in a very unflattering position in the domestic and international arenas. These events directly questioned theirprofessional acumen andexpertise. These conditions were further worsened by the inordinatedelay in taking the required and immediate though bitter self corrective measures. Thisreducedstature in domestic, public and international perceptionseffectively compromisedtheGovernment's bargaining and negotiating positions with the US. The realities of the impending budget must have weighed heavily too in the Government's decision to accede to the US demand to carry outmilitary operations in NWA. If these operations have to take place then theymust essentially bepurely Pakistani planned, manned, led and conducted ones. A joint multinational operation should be taboo as itwill certainly be catastrophicalienating the FATAirrevocably. It must never be allowed or even considered.But one hopes that we are venturing into NWA with our eyes open and our national interests firmly in front of us. Some questions remain though. Has the final phase in the Afghan end game begun? Will the operations in the NWA be the game changerfor Pakistan? What will be the situation in Afghanistan post US withdrawal from there? Will our strategic interests vis-a-vis Indian influencein Afghanistan be secured?Has the US given any assurances on this score? Will we be using other ways and means to achieve our stated long term strategic ends in Afghanistan? Do we have other options available? Is the Haqqani Group our only option? Why can't we refuse such an operation if it is not entirely in our national interest? Or are we tryingto assist the US get out of this region at the earliest ? Or have we made a definite paradigm shift in our policy towards Afghanistan and by implication India's role in the region?Has there been a viable quid pro quo in Pakistan's favour? If yes then what is it? These questions must be answered publicly by the Government before the next adventure in FATA/NWA starts. Whatever the case may be one hopes that it will be a well considered whole of Government decision with explicit, unambiguous orders, aims, objectives, limitationsand definitive time bound execution. BRIGADIER (R) IMRAN MALIK, Lahore, May 30.