Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said, while talking to pressmen in Islamabad on Saturday, that the policy of supporting the Taliban was now abandoned. She also insisted that Pakistan no longer interfered in Afghan affairs. This is no doubt a good thing, but Pakistan's good intentions should not make for a vacuum left in war-torn Afghanistan, which India, whose interest in Afghanistan is growing, would then use to its advantage. Pakistan must remain engaged with the talks with the Taliban, retaining its seat at the table with the USA, to hold talks in Qatar. The Taliban, despite being poorly equipped, have forced the USA to the negotiating table, where they are to discuss an exit of foreign troops from Afghanistan. Pakistan must not be deluded into abandoning interlocutors as powerful as the Taliban, who are likely to form part of the next government in Afghanistan. The FM saying that Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan were best safeguarded by a relationship of trust is unexceptionable, if it were not that Afghanistan is under foreign occupation. Only when this occupation ends will it be possible to have normal relations with Afghanistan.

Another dimension to the conflict has emerged in a report in the UK’s Daily Mail, which says that drones operated by the RAF were also raining Hellfire missiles on Afghan and Pakistani targets. The UK has been concealing how its drones are being used in Afghanistan, according to the report, which also quotes the British commander in Afghanistan in 2007, Maj-General Andrew MacKay, as characterizing the mission there as containing misadventures and strategic mistakes. The drone strikes were singled out as being negligent of results on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ms Khar should have taken notice of this change in perception of even the USA’s closest allies.

It should also be noticed that the UK is also in part responsible for the drone attacks, but it is not known how many civilians it has killed. It should also be noted by Pakistan’s policymakers that the USA alone is not responsible for the violations of sovereignty that the drone attacks represent, just as the admission to a Norwegian parliamentary committee revealed that the CIA and its contractors were not alone in spying in Pakistan. Great care and caution will be required to successfully disengage from the war on terror, which has cost us so dear.