In retaliation to 9/11, the US unleashed a 'shock and awe crusade against the Taliban to expeditiously defeat them. But success evaded it, since the Taliban proved to be more resilient than the Americans expected. A decade on, the US defeat at the hands of the ragtag Afghan Taliban is an embarrassing truth for the worlds sole superpower. Instead of accepting the reality, cutting its losses and devising a strategy for a negotiated settlement, the US has opted for bizarre arrangements such as envisaging back door negotiations with the Taliban without involving Pakistan; and pulling out major part of the troops by end 2013, but retaining the 10,000 to 15,000 strength comprising special forces (SF) and marines in Afghanistan. The SF will hold the bases at Kabul, Kandahar and Herat; the US military pundits have propounded the extended use of drones and employing the forces for surgical operations. Such operations will be particularly focused on Pakistan, which has already pushed the Pak-US relations to the brink. Under public pressure, Pakistan is left with no option but to retaliate against the deliberate violation of its sovereignty. The methodology and extent of retaliation is a matter of command decision. The strategic cost of such clandestine actions to the US, therefore, would far outweigh the tactical gains and the fallout on relations with Pakistan. The operational environment is definitely not favourable for the revised US strategy. There are extreme anti-US sentiments within Afghanistan and some of its neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan and Iran, while Russia and China also favour an early exit of the US from Afghanistan, since its involvement in the region is an impediment to peace. The Al-Qaeda bogey has been played far too long and too many times to lend further credence. To form a broad-based government, the US must leave Afghanistan, and stop playing favourites or furthering its pawns. Under the circumstances, it is imperative to analyse the contours of US exit strategy from Afghanistan and its implications for Pakistan. The GHQ and Pentagon have been at odds with each other over the appointment of American contractors, and the drastically reduced number of their visas. These officials were, reportedly, assigned various duties such as logistic support, and the monitoring of audit and accounts of the Coalition Support Fund. It was, therefore, necessary to rationalise the presence of US officials in Pakistan in such large numbers. During a roundtable meeting at Pentagon with the military and media representatives, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta stated that Washington must continue to work with Islamabad for it was difficult to win in Afghanistan without it. The Defence Secretary, after wreaking havoc on Pakistan as CIA Chief, following the Raymond Davis episode and high drama to eliminate Osama bin Laden, still has aces up his sleeve. Was the latest episode of successfully apprehending the senior Al-Qaeda leader, Sheikh Yunis Al-Mauritania, with shared intelligence between the CIA and the ISI only a flash in the pan? Surely, Panetta needs to check his instincts to needlessly target Pakistan. While addressing military officers at the US National Defence University, he said that relations with Pakistan were difficult because some elements in the government had links with the Haqqani network, which is staging attacks on the US-led troops in Afghanistan, while he blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba for orchestrating attacks in India. Such ploys are to force Pakistan to commence operations in North Waziristan. However, the US must realise that it will do so only at a time of its own choice. Take another example: A police station of the Xinjiang Province, China, bordering Pakistan was attacked by the terrorists on July 18, killing 18 people. Some foreign vested interests spread the disinformation that the suspects had been trained in Pakistan. This incident was planned and executed to malign Pakistan and to create misunderstanding between Beijing and Islamabad. The State Department Spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, announced that $800 million military assistance to Pakistan would be tied to its ability to cooperate with the US in the war on terror. The US remains oblivious to the fact that the setting of preconditions on funding will hamper operations against extremists and ultimately cause grief to the US. On the other hand, the drone strikes remain a source of friction between America and Pakistan. Even highly rated US defence analysts have pronounced that the drone campaign is counterproductive and a breach of its sovereignty, as they kill hundreds of innocent civilians. The speech by Presidents Bush and Obama, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, failed to credit Pakistans sacrifices. We need to ask them what the US administration asked of President Musharraf following 9/11: Are you with us or against us? The writer is a political and defence analyst. Email: