Last weeks rampage in Dir with 300 Afghan militants attacking the villages, after ransacking a check post being manned jointly by the police and Dir Levies soldiers at Shaltalo, Barawal Valley, killing several security personnel, is a cause for serious concern. Reportedly, the incident is in retaliation for the assassination of Osama bin Laden and was conducted by Al-Qaeda. This is a very serious development, as Pakistan appears to be caught in a double whammy. It is being accused by the US for remaining oblivious of bin Ladens hideout in Abbottabad, while Al-Qaeda is accusing Pakistan of complicity in their leaders assassination and thus is targeting its security forces and civilians. Meanwhile, the US is expected to commence the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan from July 2011. President Barack Obamas announcement of his new AfPak policy in 2009 had mentioned a civilian approach to the problem. Unfortunately, like his predecessor, Obama appears to be caught in the same quagmire. All that has resulted of the AfPak strategy, which was subsequently revised, is a troops surge. Unfortunately, it failed to achieve the desired results. The resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan have been getting the better of the allied troops and NATO. Obamas strategy to achieve a swift victory and force the Taliban to come to the negotiation table for a political solution has so far evaded the US. Even behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Taliban have been a fiasco as, reportedly, the fake Taliban made their way to the negotiating table, pocketed the funds provided to them and disappeared in oblivion. This is the reason that all negotiation should be carried out by the Afghans themselves, with the good offices of Pakistan as facilitators, if the Afghan leadership so desires. The projected US political surge in Afghanistan was supposed to result in a credible government with control of the situation. Unfortunately, the US has not managed it so far. The much touted Marjah and Kandahar operations did not achieve the desired results either, thus the political surge remains a mirage. In case the US withdraws from Afghanistan without resolving the political imbroglio, it will be in the depths of despair for the Afghans and equally dangerous for Pakistan. In a replay of the tribal wars, in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, Afghanistan erupted into internecine wars that brought drugs and Kalashnikov to Pakistan and nearly destabilised it. Therefore, after the US troops leave Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda will run amok posing acute danger to its existence. So the US should ensure that it addresses the problem of placing a civilian dispensation in Afghanistan before its departure, which is responsible and manages to govern in a way that a civil strife does not erupt and Al-Qaeda does not take root again. Surely, this will not be possible without engaging the Taliban. However, there is a dichotomy here since the US has laid down a policy to track and kill Mullah Omar, which is unlikely to win any brownie points for the US among the Taliban; Osamas killing has already brought about severe retaliation and hundreds of Pakistanis have been killed. Unless the US makes a concerted effort to seriously pursue its promised political surge, the situation will remain grave and, if anything, deteriorate further. President Hamid Karzais visit to Islamabad was timely and may help in allaying the distrust. Politics choses strange bedfellows, but geography does not. Pakistan and Afghanistan are destined to be neighbours and the stability in one country affects the other. Pakistan does not want a repeat of the 1990s, when the US withdrew hastily from Afghanistan after the Soviet retreat and it was left holding the Afghan baby and the upheaval that followed. This time around, Washington must fix the political imbroglio and Islamabad would be more than happy to lend a helping hand in the political surge in Afghanistan. Pakistan has sacrificed tremendously for its Western neighbour, having housed millions of Afghan refugees, bearing the brunt of the onslaught from the Soviets initially, then the warring tribesmen and now Al-Qaeda. An Afghan political surge to be ensured by the US is the need of the hour. n The writer is a political and defence analyst.