President Obama appears to be concentrating on his job vigorously. As the US is beset by many pressures at home and abroad, Obama is consciously trying to cut the losses to start with. In his recent interview with the New York Times, he highlighted his predicament by saying: "Look I wish I had the luxury of just dealing with a modest recession or just dealing with health care or just dealing with energy or just dealing with Iraq or just dealing with Afghanistan...I don't have that luxury, and I don't think the American people do, either." All these curses hit the US under the last administration which functioned, generally, as Thomas Gray said: "Where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis a folly to be wise." Obama, in sharp contrast to his nave but pro-rich predecessor, appears to be an accomplished advocate of his country. His experiences in life, education and travel around the world make him an unusually well-informed American. Despite being very young he is able to use a statesmanlike lingo which may serve his own country as well the world in a big way. Since taking over he has made quite impressive statements about Afghanistan which reflect his, generally, well-advised worldview. Besides launching a special envoy, Holbrooke, he has set-up a body to review the policy in Pak-Afghan area which underlines his efforts at developing a regional approach to the trouble thrashing the area. Though India, reportedly, managed to persuade Obama to keep it out of the jurisdiction of the special envoy yet the fact remains that she is very much involved in more than one way. It has considerable influence in Kabul and it is seen, generally, as provoking the jihadi elements in this region due to its 'occupation' of Kashmir. Being knowledgeable, Obama knows that if he behaves like his predecessor, the US would suffer further blows to its power globally which could make Afghanistan his "Vietnam", as the Newsweek recently forecast. His utterances underscore the fact that he knows that Afghanistan can unleash horrors which may make Vietnam look like a rough rugby-ruse. No wonder Obama told NYT that the US was not winning the war in Afghanistan despite the decreed dispatch of 17000 more troops. Being conscious of history, topography, culture/religion, he conceded that a conventional victory was not possible therein. As such he appeared, generally, inclined to trying the approach adopted by General Petraeus in dealing with Iraq. It consisted, almost, of buying the loyalties of the Sunni triangle against Al-Qaeda and promoting a co-existence between the various communities as well as his own forces. The general has been emphasising that use of money for specific purposes can prove deadlier than bullets/bombs as it ingratiates the foreign troops with the public. He won quite an acclaim in the US corridors of power for his success in Baghdad till he moved over to the central command. Petraeus is a wise man who wants to try his Iraqi model in Afghanistan to improve the situation. However, he could see through the fact that occupation of Kashmir remained a red rag for the extremists in this area. Obama' comments indicate that he knows the convolution of the mission in Afghanistan. As the US saw a downbeat-year 2008 for the foreign forces despite George W' desperate attempts to start a negotiation-process with the Taliban, nothing much has changed lately. Displaying his incisive insight, unlike his predecessor, he considered the fact that the Iraqi-mantra may not work in Afghanistan. "The situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex," he highlighted and added: "You have a less governed region, a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes at cross-purposes, and so figuring all that out is going to be much more a challenge." His assessment appears to be realistic at the outset of his presidency which is fully borne out by the ground realities. The foreign forces face fearful odds particularly in South/East and they are trying to shed their arrogance of power/macho tactics etc to cultivate a soft image among the locals. The latest Economist avers that on the orders of General David McKiernan, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, the blue signs summarising the new acumen are attached all around the headquarters in Kabul: "We can't win if you drive recklessly. Think about it." It remains to be seen if the new US president can pursue his defined option in Afghanistan. The hatred and ill-will provoked by George W' strange policies make a terrible menace. Besides the destruction caused by occupation, merciless bombing, corrupt governance, 'freedom-fighters' etc, there are three factors which keep on boiling the cauldron. First, the drone attacks which, generally, end up killing innocent civilians besides some 'suspects' are adding constantly to the ranks of the extremists. This is so because such deaths have to be avenged by the survivors as per the local belief/culture. As Karzai is helpless, the aggrieved people join hands with the Taliban to inflict vengeance. Second, the stories coming from the inhuman experiences of those released from Gitmo etc are spreading serious resentment against the perpetrators of such atrocities. For example nobody can understand how or why the ex-Ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, was commandeered by the US and dispatched by Pakistan to Gitmo. He was tortured for three years therein. His book in Pashto depicting the predicament of 'suspects', many of whom were proved innocent like himself after long imprisonment terms, has created quite a stir in the area. Third, the US could not achieve the targets of reconstruction visualised by the Bonn Conference of 2002 after the ouster of the Taliban from power. The latter had lost the battle as well as, generally, the goodwill. However, corruption, lack of justice, unemployment, bred haunting insecurity which have hastened the reemergence of Taliban. Thanks to the Northern warlords, original allies of the status quo, opium cultivation is at its highest which contributes 1/3 of the GDP of Afghanistan. Driven against the wall the Pashtuns also followed suit under the patronage of the Taliban. This earns them good money and accounts for the aggressive campaign against the foreign forces. US will need some honest brokers to reach a settlement with the insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan which is also suffering due to the spill-over of the prevailing mess. So far the Taliban insist on ending the 'occupation' before any talks can be held. Despite all the complications, Pakistan can still influence the Taliban on the basis of faith like Saudi Arabia. Obama can make history pursuing a rapprochement in this area which would remove all the red rags for the jihadis. That would end the Vietnam-complex against him. It would also bolster US position in this roundabout of the world as Arnold J Toynbee puts it which is a gateway to Central Asia/Caspian region. The writer is a former secretary interior. E-mail: