When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused low level Pakistani government officials for knowing the whereabouts and protecting Al-Qaedas Osama Bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, she exposed the time-tested fragility of Pak-US relationship that is traditionally based on suspicion and mistrust. Despite an extensive US intelligence network in Pakistans tribal belt since 9/11, including their system of intelligence sharing through local informers and coordination with their Pakistani counterparts, Bin Laden and Mullah Omar have yet to be located in Pakistan. Apparently, scores of drone attacks against suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistans tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, have not been able to target Bin Laden, Al Zawahiri (Osamas deputy) or Mullah Omar. Who would believe that with all their super high-tech satellite and electronic intelligence capabilities, the US has remained unaware all these years about the status (dead or alive) and whereabouts of the Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, Osama Bin Laden in particular. Surely, the American intelligence and leadership (including Ms Clinton) knows exactly where he is, above or below the ground. In any case, it suits the Americans to keep him alive and on the run in the virtual world of intelligence and misinformation. The unpredictable and roller-coaster nature of Pak-US relations can be judged by the fact that only a few weeks ago the atmosphere of the strategic dialogue held in Washington was all about exchange of pleasantries, compliments and mutual praise, ending up with that rare photograph of an excited Shah Mahmood Qureshi brushing his head with the blushing Hillary. Perhaps Pakistanis have yet to understand that when it comes to pursuing their core interests, the US may simply refuse to recognise their longstanding 'allied ally. Ms Clintons threats to Pakistan of severe consequences in the post Faisal Shahzad scenario not only exposed the typical prejudiced American mindset vis--vis Pakistan, but also rocked the foundations of the Pak-US strategic dialogue. The question is, what could be the likely consequences of another Faisal Shahzad type but 'successful terrorist act? The US could expand drone attacks in other areas of FATA, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; order surgical air strikes or send ground troops into action in North Waziristan. It could hold back the Kerry-Lugar aid, coalition support, IMFs financial packages or restart the anti-Pak nukes hype. Moreover, a US 'wink to the Indians to 'activate the eastern front cannot be ruled out. But what could be Pakistans response to the above situation? The coalitions logistic supply lines through Karachi, Torkham and Chaman could be cut and American security contractors expelled from Pakistan. Anti-Americanism would hit the skies. But more significantly, the US-NATO forces could lose Pakistans support for a safe and honourable exit from Afghanistan. Is the US prepared for all such eventualities? Certainly, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayanis decision earlier this year of not opening another front for another six months to a year was in line with our strategic interests. However, the Americans were clearly upset with the Pakistani army chiefs firm stance on this issue. Moving hastily into North Waziristan before securing and stabilising South Waziristan, and other FATA areas, would result in an operational imbalance, overstretch the armys resources and also subject our forces to undue pressures of unsecured lines of communication and logistics. As a matter of fact, the militants could also take advantage and regroup in the areas regained by the army. Furthermore, the situation in North Waziristan is much more complex involving many militant groups with diverse objectives. It makes strategic sense to first identify, isolate and then fight the real enemy, rather than taking on a 'unified enemy, if these groups were to join hands. As in case of Operations Rah-e-Rast (in Swat) and Rah-e-Nijat (in South Waziristan), wherein public support was overwhelming, any operation in North Waziristan, too, would require a national consensus. Pakistan army definitely needs to move cautiously as it has clearly seen through the US 'double game that was played in the last two years, wherein the Indians were given a free hand to launch their destabilisation efforts in FATA and Balochistan from the Afghan soil. Next remember how the US/ISAF troops vacated many check posts on the Afghan side that facilitated the militants to cross over to Pakistan during the armys South Waziristan offensive few months ago. So when Ms Clinton recently referred to the Pakistani 'double game, she in fact reflected the USAs inner frustration for failing to lure our army into the North Waziristan quagmire according to the American agenda. In addition, with the US mid-term elections drawing close in November this year, President Barack Obama remains desperate to deliver a noteworthy success in Afghanistan to the American people. Obamas own future in the next presidential elections could be in serious jeopardy, should the 'surge ' strategy and increased drone attacks fail to break the Taliban might and bring them on the negotiating table. Besides with the element of strategic surprise already lost, Operation Kandahar is heading towards the grand finale in the fight against the Taliban. Already few probing attacks on the Kandahar outskirts had to be called off due to a lack of integration and preparation of the Afghan special forces into the overall plan to capture Kandahar. The US secretarys knee-jerk reaction to the Faisal Shahzad incident was shocking. Her threatening outburst was certainly erratic and uncalled for. It sent the Pakistani nation fuming with anger. And the Pak army responded sternly refusing to accept any dictation; the decision to go into North Waziristan, including the timeframe of the operation, would be determined by the army. Visibly upset with Pakistans stinging response, the US military leadership sheepishly clarified that they had not pressurised Pakistans army on the North Waziristan issue. As a final word, was the Faisal Shahzad episode a grand set up for our army to force it into North Waziristan? Hillary Clintons threats to a nuclear-armed ally surely backfired into the American face. Like the American military leadership, she, too, must reconcile with the stark reality that the Pakistani army holds the key to American success or failure in Afghanistan. But those who ensured that Faisals 'amateur dirty bomb does not explode in Times Square may well be planning their 'next move. The writer is a retired brigadier. Email: fhkhan54@gmail.com