The American tacticians in Kabul have, indeed, shot President Barack Obama in his foot by conducting the recent air space incursions and shooting down of three Pakistani soldiers by NATO/ISAF helicopters. The US Presidents efforts to improve Americas image amongst the Pakistani public has definitely suffered a serious setback due to this incident. The apology tendered by the US Ambassador to Pakistan, on behalf of the administration and people of America, would not help in cooling down the public anger; however, the bad taste may prevail for quite some time. As regards logistic calculus, around 60 percent of non-lethal supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan pass via two crossings from Pakistan, through difficult and inadequately secure land routes. The Northern Distribution Network (NDN) handles 25 percent of the supply and the remaining 15 percent is conveyed by air. The monthly average of non-fuel supplies through Pakistan is over 4,000 containers, compared with 1,457 via NDN. The bulk of the fuel delivered by the northern route is aviation related, while diesel and gasoline for ground vehicles and generators is conveyed through Pakistani routes. The NDN is also far slower and is three to five times costlier. It passes through a number of volatile Central Asian Republics; this network has its vulnerabilities which are far more serious than Pakistani routes. It is envisioned to supplement Pakistani supply line and not to supplant it. NATO keeps a maximum of 30 days logistic reserve in its storage depots in Afghanistan. As the reserves are already under strain due to the operation in Kandahar, in case of protracted closure of Pakistani supply routes NATO could be in a serious danger of hitting a supply bottom rock. So, if it has to rely on NDN only, which does not have the capacity to handle the entire logistic requirement, the accuring shortages would definitely hit operational effectiveness. To ensure arrival of requisite logistics at destination, the US pays huge bribes to corrupt Afghan officials and warlords. In return, they provide security to these logistic caravans in exchange for the hefty protection money. The cost of a gallon of gas delivered to the US units in Afghanistan is between $800-$1000. More so, fears are growing in Washington that the Afghan war may be lost. According to polls, the American popular opinion has turned against the war. Pentagon fears that failure in Afghanistan will humiliate the US military and undermine Americas international power - a replica of what happened to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. So, the American strategy is based on a sick premise that by killing enough insurgents, it could bargain from strength and force the Taliban into a settlement; whereas any meaningful effort of reconciliation should begin from the Haqqani network - the powerful group that the US is anxious to dismantle. Thus, USAs effort to decimate various powerful groups is only incurring their heightened antagonism and undermining the process of reconciliation. Despite all this, Pentagon is convinced that it can still defeat the resistance by the Taliban and its allies if only we can go after their sanctuaries in Pakistan, as told to Eric Margolis by a US general. It is a replay of a fixation similar to that of crossing over into Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War. Frustrated tacticians expanded the war into Cambodia and Laos to go after the Communist base camps. Although Cambodia and Laos were destroyed, yet the war was lost. Remember, victory in a war is achieved by the concentration of forces, not by spreading them ever thinner and wider. On the Pakistani side, our leadership is caught between the American demand to do more and their disenchanted citizens. The recent polls show that Pakistanis now regard the US as a greater enemy than India. The public sentiment has already been simmering against the provision of logistic support to NATO/ISAF since 2001, while the induction of drones in the theatre saw a sustained anti-America spike, and hardly a day passes when the Afghanistan bound containers are not attacked, torched or looted. Yet, losses on this count are less than one percent of the net logistic flow through Pakistan. In the meantime, the recent violations of Pakistans land and air space by NATO/ISAF have added to the fury of the public. Like Afghans, Pakistanis also take symbolic respect to their sovereignty quite seriously, and have emotional attachment to its manifestations. The CIA-operated drone attacks in Pakistan during September totalled as many as the previous four months combined. The Pakistani government has publicly protested against the incursions. The recent drone barrage may be overkill. Out of 181 drone attacks since 2004, over 80 have come in the past nine months. But fortunately the quality of the targets is not as good; success rate is about two percent. Likewise, other forms of fire support and crossborder intrusions are on the rise. Hence, the perception is snowballing that out of frustrations, NATO/ISAF is becoming increasingly trigger happy. Modern warfare in all its manifestations is resource intensive and even the insurgents require sustained logistical flow. Recent withdrawal of American vehicles, equipment and materiel from Iraq has been described as more massive and complex than the Red Ball Express that sustained the allied offensive in Europe in World War II. This assessment pertains to a country which has flat, unimpeded access to Kuwaiti ports. Therefore, it is unrealistic to assume that over 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan could sustain combat operations at the current pace without Pakistani consent for allowing the transit of supplies. Americans are demanding contradictory things from Pakistan. Out of all such things that Americans want from the Pakistan is the assurance of sustained flow of supplies, which, nevertheless is a requirement based on the ground realities of war. Pakistan is not a walkover country, warned a senior ISI official. If the US continues its crossborder attacks, he said: I will stand in the way of the convoys myself. This official represented the true public sentiment. A hard reality indeed Pakistan, angered at NATO/ISAF escalations, has exercised one of its key levers against its ally. Unless and until, the US decides to follow a pragmatic approach, the symbolic blockade by the government could soon become a public enforced choking. To ensure the flow of supply, the Americans will have to take care of the sensitivities of the Pakistani public. Any government in Pakistan, whether civilian or military, could cooperate with the US, but only to the extent its people will bear it. The alliance is badly strained. However, there is a core of mutual interests that has the potential to steer relationship out of turbulence. Pakistan is poised to oppose any attempt to widen the scope of operations, both expanse wise, as well as weapon system wise. No Pakistani government or military leadership can survive if it is seen as a pushover for America. Finally, Pak-US relations are fragile, yet sticky. To remain viable and sustainable, the relationship between the two countries needs to be strengthened structurally. The need of the moment is cool heads in Washington, Islamabad, as well as Kabul. The writer is a retired air commodore of the PAF. Email: