The confusion created by the Minister for Information Dr. Firdaus Awan about Shamsi air base notwithstanding, the news reports indicate that the Defence Minister Ch Ahmed Mukhtar asked the United States to vacate the air base which they refused to do. In response to Pakistans demand the US authorities have said that they suspended the drone flights from this base three months back. The current drone flights originate from Jalalabad (Afghanistan). It may be noted that military bases are awarded to foreign powers on contract carrying specific terms and conditions. So we have to bear with the Americans till the contract expires but not at the cost of our sovereignty, integrity, subversion and the lives we are losing on account of unwarranted drone attacks. From where the drones operate is immaterial. It is the damage they are causing to the lives of inhabitants of our tribal areas. As a veteran of two Indo-Pak wars I feel that the American strategy of launching drone attacks against Taliban is wrong. The Taliban are not fighting a conventional war in which large formations of troops are deployed in specific areas and are vulnerable to air attacks. The Taliban are fighting a guerilla war in which small groups of armed fighters keep moving in search of suitable targets. If the Americans think that they can eliminate or deter Taliban from launching suicide attacks or bomb explosions here and there by drone attacks they are mistaken. The Taliban activity can be encountered more effectively through ground operations and not by air. The air action could be highly useful in destroying the Talibans line of communication, dumps of armaments, explosives and equipment, which the Americans have so far not been able to locate. My analysis of the whole issue indicates that America has lost much more than it has gained by launching drone attacks. They do not realize that majority of Taliban being identical to the people of our northern areas in shape and dress are not easily identifiable. This is the reason that among the casualties caused by a drone attack we find around a dozen locals killed for one or two Talibans. Since the people of those areas lose their innocent family members in drone attacks they have developed strong feelings of hatred for America. In retaliation of the drone attacks they destroy the containers carrying food supplies, arms, ammunition and equipment meant for the American troops. This is a colossal damage as compared to the gains. As per the latest news the United States is planning to divert its supply caravans to Afghanistan through the Central Asian states which is said to cost them ten times more than the Pakistan route. My advice to the US leaders is to stop the drone attacks, patch up with the leaders of our northern areas, redress the grievances of the people by extending a hand of friendship towards them, win their confidence and continue with the existing system of supplies with their cooperation. This will help them in gaining success in their ground operations against Taliban. RAFI NASIM, Lahore, July 3.