FINALLY it has come out in the open that the US really does not know where Osama has been post the botched Tora Bora bombing. US Defence Secretary Gates declared that the US had no reliable intelligence about Osama's whereabouts for years. Despite this ground reality the US has pilloried Pakistan for years by declaring that Bin Laden was in Pakistan. The truth is that the US has and continues to be confused not only about bin Laden but also Afghanistan in general. Obama's policy statement and withdrawal plan has now been undermined by his own people who are retracting on the withdrawal time frame. In all their confusion, Pakistan has become a favourite whipping boy to abuse and slander at will. This is primarily our leadership's fault for allowing itself to suffer such unmerited abuse. The confusion prevailing within the US has been highlighted by the latest pronouncement by US National Security Adviser James Jones who, contrary to Gates's statement on Osama declared that Bin Laden was hiding along the Pakistan-Afghan border, "somewhere in North Waziristan". Yet Jones also admitted that Bin Laden still spends time in Afghanistan. So clearly the Americans are confused and have almost no reliable intelligence on Osama's whereabouts. Yet they are ready to target Balochistan and the so-called 'Quetta Shura' - although now it would seem that information is also a wild guess with no basis on any reliable intelligence. At best their pronouncements are premised on simple hearsay from their so-called Pakistani defence consultants who are equally devoid of ground intelligence and simply tell the Americans what they want to hear. For Pakistan such an unprofessional approach by the US poses a real security threat since any action based on this poor intelligence could destabilise the country. After all, Iraq has been rent asunder as a result of faulty if not deliberately faked "intelligence" on the WMD issue. Confusion also prevails over when, how and if the US will eventually move to talk to the "good" Taliban - which is fast becoming a compulsion if they want a dignified exit out of Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban, for their part, have declared again that if the US leaves, things will stabilise. Whatever the merits of this assumption, what is clear is that as long as the US and NATO remain in Afghanistan there will be no peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. It is time Pakistan removed itself from the confused US operational milieu in this region and sought clarity for its own counter-terrorism policy and its Afghan policy.