President Barack Obamas announcement to begin a drawdown of the US forces from Afghanistan has evoked a flashback of 'Mikhail Gorbachev in Vladivostok, who wanted nothing more than an honourable exit from a disastrous war. During his address to the Soviet Politburo in November, 1986, President Gorbachev said that even after six years of military effort, 'no end was in sight. In general, we have not found the key to resolving this problem. Gorbachevs retreat was an admission of defeat. For America, the picture is not so bleak. Despite a substantial cost in blood and treasure, the US does not face an imminent disaster; though a deferred one it cannot escape. Luckily, Obama understands that embracing of graceful failure is a better option rather than a strategic meltdown. He has asserted his leadership well in time and said: America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home. Nevertheless, announcement of the drawdown without achieving the stated objectives and without any reference to conditions on the ground is a tacit admission of Americas eroding staying power. Moreover, the window of opportunity for a face-saving exit is narrowing down on a fast pace. Even though the US may be able to carry on military operations at the current pace for quite some time, its national will to stay the course vis--vis use of military as a tool of first choice is eroding at a pretty fast pace. The House of Representatives matched the national mood by flatly rejecting a bill to authorise military operations in Libya. The resolution failed 295 to 123, with 70 Democrats bluntly crossing over to the Republican side to oppose the bill. They are of the view that operations in Libya do not qualify to be called a war, but the Congress thinks otherwise; the same corollary is applicable to the drone attacks in Pakistan. While the Pentagon has termed the US troop drawdown as too speedy, the Taliban have termed it as 'only a symbolic step. However, what seemed to be a modest withdrawal plan has begun to have serious rippling effects. Taking the US plan to extricate its 33,000 troops from Afghanistan synonymous with throwing down the towel, the NATO seems to be in a tailspin of panic. Most of the NATO member states that were enthusiastic to stay much beyond 2014 during their rhetoric at the Lisbon Summit, a couple of months ago, are now eager to pull out their troops as fast as possible. For instance, Germany and France have promptly announced that they would look at scaling down their own presence in Afghanistan. France has indicated that it would carry out a progressive pullback of its 4,000 forces with a timetable similar to the one announced by the US. While Germany has voiced concern over the safety of its troops, especially when the Taliban militias are emboldened and motivated to hit back following what they conceive as the US defeat in Afghanistan. It has also decided to pull out its 4,900 troops deployed in northern Afghanistan, which have been facing the brunt of combat operations for quite some time. Other NATO allies, including Canada and Italy, have already set the timelines for their troop withdrawal. The ISAF component is already in a state of despair. This coalition of the unwilling does not have the stomach to continue its presence in Afghanistan for even a day more. America will cut down 10,000 troops by the end of this year. Another 23,000 troops will leave next summer. So if Obama loses the mid-term elections, he would hand back the Afghan war to a Republican President at the resource level at which he inherited it. Despite that there would be over 60,000 troops left, out of which 25,000 may be stationed indefinitely in Afghanistan under an arrangement being thrusted upon President Hamid Karzai. The permanent US military presence in Afghanistan could be mischievously linked to an imaginary threat from Pakistan. The New York Times David Sanger suggests that Islamabads angry reaction to Operation Geronimo, makes it more urgent than ever that the United States maintain sites outside the country to launch the drone and commando raids against the militant networks that remain in Pakistan and to make sure that Pakistans fast growing nuclear arsenal never falls into the wrong hands. Bruce Reidel, a retired CIA spy with pathological anti-Pakistan bias, is of the opinion that the US needs a base to strike targets in Pakistan. The geography is simple: You need to do that from Afghanistan, he said. Anyway, the delusional scenario that Obama built for his people is that America is drawing down from a position of strength, though he was not in denial of the fact that many important dimensions of the Afghan nation building had gone astray. He hoped that the Afghans would be able to build an alternative to the war economy. Peace, he said, is achievable, but it has to be led by the Afghan government, with those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan and break from Al-Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan Constitution. Here Hillary and Obama are on different planes. Hillary during her Asia Society speech in February, had postponed these preconditions as end objectives. The Soviets, too, had thought that they could arrange a face-saving political solution; they were proven wrong when the country soon got into the quicksand of a civil war. Soon after Obamas drawdown discourse, Hillary described the US-Pakistan relationship as frustrating. However, she said: We cannot walk away from this relationship...we cannot repeat the mistakes of 1989. But when it comes to our military aid, we are not prepared to continue providing that at the pace we were providing it, unless and until we see some steps taken. Likewise, just before leaving the office it dawned upon Secretary Gates that Afghan war could be won without Pakistan. About $500 million tranche of Coalition Support Fund has been held back, which was firmly committed for release by June 30. Further, aid is likely to be cut down drastically. Recently, Islamabad has asked Washington to vacate the Shamsi airbase, which has been under American usage for surveillance and drone attacks. Thus, the so-called bilateral Strategic Dialogue is now in abeyance, sine die. It is amply clear that America has decided to abandon Afghanistan and dump Pakistan. Partnership with the US has never been easy, yet the recent spate of doubts and uncertainties has reinforced strains and fault lines. The war that is being abandoned rather abruptly has the potential of reversing the frontiers and finding its way into Pakistan as, indeed, other countries bordering Afghanistan. Presently, all the American options towards Pakistan are primed on a single objective of putting extra pressure on it on one pretext or the other. Gorbachev and Obama are two sides of the same coin, as far as post-war dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan is concerned. Pakistan needs to understand this quickly and adjust to the fast changing realities. The recent initiative by Iran to hold a trilateral summit with Afghanistan and Pakistan on the issue of terrorism needs to be expanded to include all countries bordering Afghanistan. n The writer is an analyst of international security and current affairs. He is a former Assistant Chief of Air Staff of the Pakistan Air Force. Email: