This is with reference to the news that Obama administration has approved sending of an additional 17, 000 US forces to Afghanistan. Barack Obama is moving according to his manifesto by concentrating on Afghanistan while he withdraws from Iraq. But the historical enigma of Afghanistan is that it has remained untamed through out. According to Allama Iqbal "Asia is the center of the world and Afghanistan is the center of Asia. So the dream of world peace would remain unfulfilled until there is peace in Afghanistan". Exactly twenty years ago, the last Russian units left Afghanistan after a nine-year intervention that took lives of 15,000 of their soldiers. Two decades later, the ironies of war in Afghanistan are telling. When Richard Holbrooke, the new US envoy to the region, visited the country this week he may have not been aware of the Soviet anniversary. But the US led intervention in Afghanistan is almost as long as that of the Russians. At this stage of their war, though, the Russians were preparing to leave. The US and NATO want to get in further and if Barack Obama's plans for 30,000 extra US troops are met, along with efforts to get more from NATO, the coalition forces will almost equal the peak numbers of 115,000 troops that the Russians had at one point of time. Western causalities, though, are considerably less. But NATO has been no more successful. Like the Russians, the western alliance also mainly occupies Kabul and provincial capitals. The countryside is vulnerable to attack or in the hands of the resistance - admixture of Islamic fundamentalists, Pukhtun nationalist, local tribal chiefs, mullahs and Arab Jihadis - just like the mujhahideen who confronted the Russians. The difference is that the west and Pakistan supported and armed them in the 1980s. Now using the profits of heroin, they are self -sustaining and harder to control. Talking to Taliban makes sense only in the distant future. A better option, probably, would be a phased NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan to give Afghans the right to rule their country in their own style. As they say, a foreign invasion has never solved the internal problems of a country, only multiplied them. -BASHIR HUSSAIN AZAD, Chitral, via e-mail, February 24.