EHSAN MEHMOOD KHAN Even after eight years of foreign military presence led by the US under the banners of ISAF, NATO and US Army, the Taliban control better part of Afghanistan; in fact, they have been able to extend their hold. The reason is threefold. First, the coalition does have capability (machines versus men and drones versus donkeys) but manifestly lacks the requisite level of will. Secondly, military strategy dominates the political strategy and guidelines. Polity is rather looking towards the military commanders to deliver. Thirdly, strategic oratory and rhetoric is not supported by tactical gains, something that is the hallmark of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla warfare. The American forces seldom come out of their hides to meet the Taliban guerrillas in the rock-strewn battlefields. Small raids on houses and mosques apart, any major offensive by the allied forces has not been heard since the fall of Taliban or since the Americans were virtually free from their business in Iraq in 2004. While the US soldiers are spending, or even exceeding, their tenure in steel-hard bunkers, the Taliban are openly strolling across the streets in most of Afghanistan and may start a quick march to Kabul if the situation does not improve. Yet, the US officials, media and academic circles continue to point their metaphoric blame-gun to Pakistan, something that has been detrimental to the Pak-US partnership, a prerequisite especially in this bleak environment. The predicament facing Pakistan is understandable. Before the US attack on Afghanistan, the phenomenon of suicide bombing was not known to the Pakistani populace. In the aftermath of fall of Taliban, the US forces came under tremendous pressure from dozens of resistance groups mainly from Afghanistan but some even from across the border owing to their ethic relationship. To ward off US apprehensions, Pakistan started chasing Taliban guerrillas inside Pakistan and sealed its mountainous border with Afghanistan employing over 0.1 million troops. Taliban had and still have a clear warning to the Pakistans government to either stop siding with the US or else face the brunt of suicide bombing. Till date, over 2000 Pakistani officers and soldiers, some of them quite senior officers have lost their life in the war that ensued. How many did the US lose on the north-western side of the hill? There is a sharp contrast between the attitude of even high officials of the armed forces of Pakistan and US. While Pakistani officials are present at the front with helmet on their head, bulletproof jackets round their chest and personal weapon hanging with their shoulders, the story is different on the Afghan side. To my knowledge, at least one three-star general, one two-star general, a number of one-star generals and junior officers have embraced martyrdom alongside a large number of troops. Nevertheless, Pakistan has been oft-blamed for not doing enough and Pakistan Army for hesitating to gun down own people. When fighting a war on ones own soil, it is normal for the army to have feeling fellow citizens. The case of the US is different. It is fighting a war some 12,000 kilometres away from its border. Even a direct flight from the US reaches Afghanistan in over 15 hours.. Pakistan, on the other hand, finds itself in the heart of the battlefield, courtesy its alliance with the US. The other important factor delaying a full military response was the public opinion within Pakistan. Having cultivated the public opinion, Pakistan launched Operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat Valley. It was a success from all angles, whether political, military, moral or ethical. Pakistan Army has reportedly recalibrated its guns for launching a decisive winter offensive called Operation Rah-e-Nijat in Waziristan where militants, foreign as well as local, have their sanctuaries. It is difficult to measure the time the operation might take to conclude but with the support of the local population one could assume that half the battle could be won. This moral build-up before the operation is certainly vital alongside military build-up. Moral legitimacy for US forces in Afghanistan, on the other hand, is surely far from probability. Pakistans success in the operation is question might lead to another dilemma for the US forces in Afghanistan. If someone analytically glances through the 66-page assessment report submitted by General Stanely McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, to the Department of Defence, it would become evident that the American forces are now on the road to reverses. The general has rather put the Obama Administration in a dilemma. Henry Kissinger rightly opined in his write-up titled Deployments and Diplomacy published in Newsweek on October 3, 2009 that in case McChrystal was not provided with more troops as asked for by him, it would be widely interpreted as the first step towards withdrawal and in case he was, it would be taken as Obamas War by his opponents. I would tend to add to Kissingers view that in case the force level was not increased, it would loosen the joint between political and military strategy and if it is, it would amount to political strategy dancing on the tunes of a virtually failing military strategy. One has to wait and see how the US president finally reacts. And the next year would probably reveal how his decision impacts on the two sides of the hill (the Hindu Kush Mountain Range). Nevertheless, the US polity needs to dispassionately consider that they ought to bring to the fore an all-inclusive political strategy, using military strategy merely as means to meet the ends. Failing this, the northwestern side of the hill would remain under the fear of militancy. The Americans need to do this at the earliest before it gets too late even for an honourable exit. The writer is a research fellow at the National Defence University, Washington DC. Email: