KHALID IQBAL Credit is due to President Barack Obama for his timely recognition of a fast approaching humiliating defeat and prudently saving his country. Certainly, Titanic has been retrieved from the catastrophe; to fight some other day (maybe in Iran). Now retreat is the reality; surge is just there to add glory (read innocent blood) to it. Obama's new policy on Afghanistan is a balanced compromise to satisfy contending stakeholders. High marks of the policy are the withdrawal timeframe and rationalisation of America's mission in Afghanistan. However, the emphasis on civil sector development and institutional capacity enhancement is a welcome proclamation. Hopefully, an operational level road map, covering the civilian component, incorporating the setting up of ROZs, would soon be unveiled. If force density in Iraq and Indian occupied Kashmir is to serve as a reference to ensure an effective occupation of Afghanistan, the force requirement is much higher than what General Stanley McChrystal had projected in his initial assessment; what he is getting is even lesser than his optimistic estimate. While considering the field commander's request, the top American hierarchy stood divided on the numbers, proposals varied from 10,000 to 80,000 personnel. The 'surge' option was supported by the secretaries of state and defence, CJCSC and C-in-C Centcom, whereas opposite views were articulated by the vice president and the national security adviser. One of General McChrystal's predecessors and current American ambassador to Afghanistan, General (retd) Karl Eikenberry, had initiated a communiqu to the White House, duly leaked to the media, pleading that additional troops are not required in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, McChrystal's appreciation attracted due credence while determining the quantum of surge. Now his bluff has been called, and it's time to deliver. Militarily, the addition of 30,000 troops is not likely to make any significant impact on the ground. This is probably to satisfy the domestic hawks (read neocons and Bushites), who would have otherwise blamed the current administration of abdication. So, the last tranche of men and material is coming in, at God's speed. Nevertheless, historically, the surge strategy has rarely ended in favourable military results. It will cost around $45 billion to support this surge contingent for 18 months. If this wealth was spent on the economic rehabilitation and uplift of the effected areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, it would have served the purpose of counter-terrorism in a much better and enduring way. In this backdrop, any surge operations in the southern provinces of Afghanistan would cast its adverse impact on Pakistan. We will have to focus on handling the influx of refugees including a significant number of hardened extremist fighters and terrorists. Hence, one could postulate an era of heightened law and order problems, in Pakistan, at least for the next 18 months. Furthermore, purpose of the surge would be better served if areas to be cleansed off the extremists are duly sealed to prevent exodus towards Pakistan, classical COIN should mainly be conducted by the land forces with discreet use of air power. Indeed, the collateral damage to civilian life must remain as close to the General McChrystal's heart, as would be the body bag count of the occupation forces. Another area of apprehension is that given his joint special operations background, the field commander may resort to excessive use of Blackwater (Xe Worldwide/DynaCorp) category troops. These clandestine operations by notorious fame agencies would leave indelible scars on the minds of the Afghan people at large, even after the withdrawal of occupation troops. Certainly, Americans would like to leave behind good memories; therefore it would be appropriate to either pull out these dubious troops or to restrict their usage to non-combat roles. Likewise, there is a need to redefine the criteria for use of air power, by NATO/ISAF. Indiscriminate use of this instrument that occasionally touched the boundaries of war crimes needs to be rationalised. Clear guidelines must be developed and approved by the state and defence departments in this regard. It would be appropriate to pull infamous drones out of the theatre. Pakistan has an important role to play in the outcome of surge operations. Hence, there is a need to firm up our priorities and have them incorporated at the operational level to generate requisite synergy. It is through intricate and elaborate real-time sharing of intelligence info that NATO/ISAF and the armed forces of Pakistan can act in their respective areas of jurisdiction, while remaining within the ambit of unison of purpose, to achieve tactical and operational level objectives. Moreover, while supporting the operational and tactical level engagements of NATO/ISAF, our priority should be to ensure tranquillity within our country and prevent flow of extremists from and to Afghanistan. And leave the management of extremists in Afghanistan to the occupation forces. We must demand of Americans to seal off the Pak-Afghan border before launching any fresh offensive against the extremist elements, and offer our cooperation in terms of resource committal for this purpose. Priority one task for General McChrystal should to secure the logistic routes, within Afghanistan, and protect the NATO/ISAF logistic convoys by employing regular troops. Presently, about $200-400 million per annum are finding their way to extremist Taliban through security companies engaged for protecting these logistic convoys. In fact Taliban provide security to these convoys in exchange for the protection fee varying between 10 to 20 percent of the cost of consignment. Denial of this regular and assured income would facilitate an early surrender of moderate Taliban, through economic strangulation. Pakistan also needs to ask for stringent safeguards for ensuring that logistics, especially the weapons meant for NATO/ISAF do not reach the extremist elements in Pakistan. The armed forces of Pakistan have recently carried out a landmark operation in Malakand Division covering COIN and COTE domains, which is now in its consolidation phase. Second, this operation is progressing very well, in South Waziristan area. The armed forces have earned a worldwide acclaim. However, NATO and ISAF command could seek conceptual, operational and tactical level assistance from our armed forces. Pakistan has a long experience of dealing with various elements of the Afghan Taliban. Hence, we are better poised to make a distinction between moderate and extremist factions. Coupling the military operations and civilian development actions in a synergic way through a broad based consultative process involving America, Pakistan and the Afghan people, via a broad based government, is a prerequisite for reaching a win-win finale. Pakistan can play a significant role in developing the civil sector and in the capacity enhancement of Afghan institutions. Conjointly with American participation, Pakistan is better placed to carry on performing this noble role even after the withdrawal of occupation forces. Therefore, the culture of blaming Pakistan for NATO and ISAF inadequacies must come to a close, while the 'do more' mantra needs to be replaced with 'let's do more'. The writer is a former assistant of the chief of the air staff, PAF Email: khalid3408@gmail.com