While Pakistan does not seek an all-out confrontation with the US, it is also not starved of the options of continuing endure a transactional relationship. Besides the commonly stated reasons for Americas frustration, one major cause is Pakistan's recent effort to look for alternative alignments within Asia. The recent diatribe by the American leadership was, indeed, a close call hopefully, the worst is behind us. However, its next relapse with the spiralling effect may not be far away. The allegations against Pakistan are rather serious; the waging of a proxy war is too grave a charge to die down soon. It seems that the US has mouse-trapped itself. Surely, these accusations would keep coming back to haunt it with a snowball effect. America will neither be able to swallow nor spit it, and descent on the escalation ladder would be tougher than the climb. The process of strategic divergence that started with the Raymond Davis episode has reached its peak. Public hostility towards the US has reached new heights, exposing inherent strategic incompatibility of the Pak-US relations. Even a decade after 9/11, Pakistan is being asked the same question: Either you are with us or against us. Going by this fixation, America has lost a decade in fruitless pursuits. Needless to say, much has changed since 9/11. Thanks to Washingtons Machiavellian approach towards Pakistan, the gap between the publics perception and leadership's policy evaluation about America is at its minimum. So, expectations of buckling like a decade ago are misplaced. Given the spike of public antagonism, no political leader could afford to digress from the collective national sentiment, at least publicly. The statements by the political leaders indicated that a national level consensus had evolved much before the convening of the All Parties Conference (APC). Amid the prevailing confusion of jumping the fray by other countries, like China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and India, the visit by the CENTCOM Chief was a mysterious one. In all probability, he came with an ultimatum that triggered an extraordinary meeting of the Corps Commanders, which voted down any military operation in North Waziristan; thus limiting the turf for the APC. The conference has formalised the national consensus, and sent across a strong message. At the national level, there is now a need for the political leadership to fully assume the charge of Pakistans foreign policy and demonstrate that it can walk the APC talk. The incumbent leadership should try to convert this crisis into an opportunity. Pakistan needs to evaluate its options, which are numerous; and review the courses of action available to America that are numbered. Nevertheless, none of the sides can afford a direct confrontation without enormous risks. There are compatible capabilities on both sides: Americans are aware that in any military confrontation, Pakistan has no option, except to retaliate irrespective of the losses. They are well aware of the limitations of employment of raw military power and crude economic sanctions. Yet, the US may not conduct conventional operations on Pakistani soil. It may encourage cross-border incursions by Afghanistan based militants to overstretch Pakistani forces. It is likely to conduct periodic special operations akin to Abbottabad attack to embarrass Pakistans military leadership, create an aura of insecurity among the general public and induce a feeling of helplessness among the political leadership. In addition, it would focus on non-operational military punishment, by severing military aid and supplies. However, this will go back in circles to haunt America, as it will curtail the combat prowess of Pakistani military to carry out operations in the tribal areas. That is why Admiral Mullen told the US lawmakers that a flawed and strained engagement with Pakistan is better than disengagement. America understands that the relationship with Pakistan cannot be broken because of the constraints entrapping the US. A damage control effort has already been initiated by relevant American functionaries. It will be interesting to see how the US balances its compulsions and limitations. Pakistan cannot afford escalation, likewise the US also cannot up the ante unrestricted without the risk of reaching a point of diminishing returns. By scuttling the semblance of a strategic partnership, the US has already lost most of the leverage it had over Pakistan. Though Pakistan wont opt for escalation, it is prone to respond, in kind, to the US actions. Washington could stop bilateral aid to Islamabad, but that is unlikely to hurt Pakistan too much. US aid does not help the governments precarious fiscal situation in any meaningful way, as only 12-15 percent of the total amount is channelled for budgetary support. If $3 billion in economic and military is disbursed fully, this accounts for less than 7 percent of the countrys total foreign exchange earnings. The increase in export revenues and remittances in the current year was almost twice that amount. As regards significance of the aid, World Bank data shows that during the previous five years, net Official Development Assistance (ODA) from all sources to Pakistan has averaged less than 1.5 percent of its GNI. Per capita aid from all sources in 2009 was $14 only Severing of civilian aid would have only a 0.14 percent impact on Pakistans GDP growth. These facts do not point towards any meltdown, if US aid is withheld. But the real concern for Pakistans solvency would be loss of support from international lenders, like the World Bank and IMF, who will look towards the US before deciding either to grant or deny the funds. Islamabad understands that it is not in its interest to allow terrorists safe havens or allow them to launch attacks on other countries from its soil. A number of meaningful administrative and military related suggestions have been made by Pakistan to control the trans-border movements; to which the Americans have shown a cold shoulder. Pakistan, therefore, needs to project itself as an agent of peace in Afghanistan. It is uniquely placed to facilitate a process of cohabitation among various factions of the Afghan resistance. America needs to understand that it cannot continue to slaughter the resistance forces, while paying lip service to the need to reconciliation. It is now amply clear that the US wants to run away from Afghanistan at a faster pace than its advent. It does not serve long-term American interests to leave behind a stable Afghanistan, so it is doing gimmicks to spoil the pudding. Pakistan needs to take appropriate measures to minimise the impact. The writer is a retired Air Commodore and former assistant chief of air staff of the Pakistan Air Force. At present, he is a member of the visiting faculty at the PAF Air War College, Naval War College and Quaid-i-Azam University. Email:khalid3408@gmail.com