US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta surprised Pakistanis when he said that Pakistan and India were both necessary for peace in Afghanistan. He said this while talking to an international news agency to which he was giving an interview in his Pentagon office on Monday. Pakistan is understandable, for despite its best efforts, the Obama administration has found itself unable to solve the conundrum of how to ensure that Afghan regime remains friendly to the USA after its withdrawal of troops in 2014. The purpose is also to give India the role it wants in Afghanistan, and deny Pakistan the role it deserves because of its ethnic, religious and cultural ties to that country, and because of its role as a sanctuary during the Afghan Jihad of the 1980s. Secretary Panetta’s casual assertion of an Indian role in Afghanistan is bound to raise eyebrows in Pakistan at his lack of understanding of the Afghan situation, where India has no natural role, and is purely dependent on the Karzai regime for whatever limited part it has there. The US is encouraging this not because India is doing anything indispensable there, but for other geopolitical motives. Ironically, in the main one, of finding support against China, India will be reluctant to take any action against China.

However, Secretary Panetta may be on the path to a recognition that the US does not just need Pakistan to prosecute war, but also needs it to win the peace. This could be because Pakistani COAS Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani has indicated to US Chairman Joint Chiefs Gen John Dempsey that the Pakistan Army would take action in North Waziristan. However, if it continues to add a needless element where none is needed, it will probably be in for a disappointment.

Secretary Panetta also said that he was very concerned about the ‘green-on-blue’ attacks, as are called those attacks in which Afghan forces attack the American personnel responsible to train them. He should realise that these are the result of the Afghans’ refusal to accept foreign occupation, and the only way of bringing them to an end would be to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. The sooner the US realises that its presence in the region merely destabilises its friends, the better for all concerned, and thus withdrawal is the only way it has out of the situation.