The US Senate approved by a heavy majority of 62 to 33 a resolution calling for the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. According to media reports, the mover of the resolution, Senator Jeff Merkley, said that the time had come to withdraw from Afghanistan as Al-Qaeda was no longer in a position to launch a major attack on American soil, and thus the long war should be brought to an end. However, the underlying message is that not even Americans understand why they should have 66,000 troops in Afghanistan till the end of 2014. The resolution calls for something that is now a matter of mere haggling; the exact date when the forces should be withdrawn. That they are to be withdrawn in 2014 is clear, but the diehards have pressed so successfully for staying as long as possible, that it is assumed that that means the end of the year. The current argument is that a US contingent is needed for the Afghan elections in 2014, when the term limit means that some other collaborator than Hamid Karzai must be found to be President. That is an implicit admission of the failure of the US strategy, along with the training of the Afghan Army, seeing the prevalence of green-on-blue attacks.

However, while Americans might not find it very palatable, they must be made to realise that while the presence of their forces may not help them meet their goals, they are acting as a force to destabilize the whole area. Until they are withdrawn, there can be no stability in the area, and thus their withdrawal should proceed as fast as possible. The American people must not be given any contradictory signals, especially by Pakistani diplomacy, which should be working for stability in the region.

Indeed, the awakening realization among Americans may well owe itself to Pakistani efforts, which have shown consistency in emphasising that Pakistan’s interest in Afghanistan is in its attaining stability, and that that stability can only be achieved if US forces withdraw from it. Pakistan must make the USA realise that there is nothing sacred about the 2014 date, and certainly not about the end of that year.