The search for peace and stability in the troubled region comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan and the surrounding areas where life would be secure and the future predictable to a reasonable measure has been taxing the most penetrating minds in the world for quite some time without their having a clue how to find a way out of the current turbulent situation. While the Taliban government's refusal in 2001 to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders to the Americans provoked them to launch an attack on Afghanistan, it also afforded them a historic opportunity to pursue their cherished imperialist designs in the region: to have easy access to Central Asia via Indian Ocean (Gwadar), Pakistan's tribal area and Afghanistan to counter the Chinese and Russian influence there. In Afghanistan it has come up against a stone wall. Nearly seven years of the suffering of war has not dented the resolve of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to hold their ground; rather the unfolding events since the invasion - unprecedented brutality of the occupation forces, their prolonged stay in the country and the West's denigration of Islam - have lent a new strength to the Afghan resistance, which has been a major foreign policy concern of the US. It is also unhappy at important NATO allies, which are not committing their fighting forces to the war zone in Afghanistan. At the same time, as the Bush administration, coming to the end of its term, finds the Afghanistan imbroglio getting more daunting with time, it is becoming impatient and wishes to score, before it bows out, some tangible gains by getting hold of or killing a high profile Al-Qaeda operative. That would at least give some boost to the Republican presidential hopeful, if President Bush gets no credit in history books. In pursuit of this policy, the US has been hitting suspected hideouts within Pakistan's tribal region with missiles, disregarding its pleas to respect the sanctity of its territorial sovereignty. It has not made another ground assault, though, since both the Pakistan government and Chief of the Army Staff strongly protested against the incident of last month and warned that the army would use all its force to repulse another attempt. The ground attack served to expose the so-called sophistication and accuracy of Pentagon's intelligence gathering system. The checkpost located close to the Afghan border, which the US military unit targeted, was not an encampment of Al-Qaeda or Taliban terrorists as it claimed but a small force of Pakistan's security men. At least 12 of them were killed in the assault. In the aerial attacks the US has launched since February 2006, the overwhelming casualties have been of innocent civilians. This situation clearly brings out the mutual lack of trust utterly unexpected between two key allies pursuing a common cause. It particularly embarrasses Islamabad. The Predators' forays into Pakistan and the death of innocent people have created a groundswell of opposition of the government's supposed acquiescence, which undermines its credibility and brings it at par with the Musharraf regime that was suspected of having given the US carte blanche. It looks quite strange that instead of strengthening the hands of the present political order, which to all available accounts is trying to crush the insurgency in tribal areas, the US should be undercutting it, especially as its cooperation is crucial to the success of its declared aims. President Zardari is on record having made most outlandish observations - President Bush has made the world safer and India has never been Pakistan's enemy - to curry favour with the White House. His government has moved with full force in the tribal areas and that should, in fact, be winning its unqualified appreciation and help in getting firmly established. The present policies of Washington have caused a heavy loss of life and widespread destruction in Afghanistan. The country stands badly destabilised without the US having come any nearer its goal; instead, the insurgency has grown in strength. The attacks on Pakistan's territory and their backlash in the form of suicide bombings in the country have made life utterly insecure. There is widespread apprehension that the newly installed democratic government might get destabilised inflicting serious harm to the country. Pakistan is passing through a critical economic phase worsened by the rampant global crisis and needs urgent and full-scale support. But, unfortunately, the American policies are causing deep frustration in the Pakistani ruling circles that could prove counterproductive to the US aim of rooting out terrorism. This is not the time to unduly pressurise Islamabad or show impatience when it has to tread carefully taking into account internal sensitivities. The US must exercise restraint. Its search for greater influence in the region is causing it grievous harm, has crippled it economically and reduced its international standing, especially as other powers are quietly rising to world status. In the process, the cause of anti-terrorism would suffer. Could one hope that the next President (Obama or McCain) would adjust Washington's ambitions and review its strategic aims, recognising the reality of other powers that have found a prominent place on the world stage? The present mindset would cause more suffering and the prospects of peace in the region would recede. E-mail: