The public opinion in Pakistan is highly exercised these days because of the growing frequency of the attacks by the US forces in Afghanistan on the claimed militant targets in our tribal areas in violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Most of these violations of our sovereignty have been in the form of missile attacks from pilotless predators or artillery shelling from across the border. However, on 3 September the US ground forces for the first time launched an assault at a village near Angoor Adda in South Waziristan leading to the death of 20 people most of them women and children. In response to the Angoor Adda attack, the Pakistan army spokesman stressed that Pakistan reserved the "right of self-defence and retaliation to protect our citizens and soldiers against aggression." The Foreign Office lodged a strong protest with the US ambassador on the incident. The Senate and the National Assembly in a resolution adopted separately but unanimously asked the government to "repel such attacks in the future with full force" and warned that such attacks were "bound to force fundamental changes of foreign policy" by Pakistan. Asif Zardari in a statement issued on 4 September before his election as the President condemned the attack as an "outrageous and unacceptable violation of the territorial integrity of the country." Perhaps the strongest response to the US attacks inside Pakistan was given by Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who in a statement issued on 10 September rejected US claims that the rules of engagement gave the coalition forces in Afghanistan the right to conduct operations in Pakistan and declared that the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be defended at all costs. Significantly President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani separately told the media the next day that General Kayani's statement reflected the policy of the present government thus sending a clear signal to Washington that that there was a unanimity of views on the issue among the various organs of state and power centres in Pakistan. The public opinion in Pakistan was further inflamed by the calculated leaks to the US media indicating that in July 2008 President Bush had authorized the US Special Forces for the first time to launch ground assaults inside Pakistan against Al- Qaeda and Taliban militants without the approval of the Pakistan government. Separately Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on 10 September stated that he was looking at a new and more comprehensive strategy for the region that would cover both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border because of his belief that these two nations were inextricably linked in a common insurgency that crosses the border between them. There is no doubt that Pakistan's anti-terrorism policy is in a mess. Within the country the government so far has failed to evolve a national consensus and agreed strategy to overcome the menace of terrorism which threatens to tear apart the fabric of our society and poses a grave threat to the security of the country. The continuing incidents of terrorism at least partly reflect a massive failure of our intelligence establishment to penetrate and neutralize the terrorist cells in the country. The same impression of helplessness and impotent rage is conveyed on the external front where despite condemnatory statements by our leaders and spokesmen, the US forces continue to violate Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. These violations virtually mock our declared determination not to allow foreign forces to carry out military operations inside Pakistan. Time has come for the nation and the government to face the grim reality that mere statements will not eliminate the grave threat to our security on the western borders. What is needed is a well-considered strategy covering both the internal and external dimensions of the problem and enjoying national consensus. For the formulation of such a strategy it is vitally important to understand the historical background and the factors which have led us to the serious problem of Talibanization in the country and the current impasse in our Afghanistan policy both of which are inextricably linked. The roots of the problem of Talibanization go back to our ill-conceived pro-Taliban policy of the period from 1995 to September 2001 which instead of gaining influence for us in Afghanistan ultimately resulted in alienating the people of Afghanistan and giving birth to a serious security threat on our western borders besides fomenting extremism and militancy within Pakistan. The leaders of Pakistan's security and foreign policy establishment of those fateful years, who resolutely pursued this misguided policy until faced with the US ultimatum after 9/11, owe the nation an explanation and an apology for the adventurous course that they pursued in dealing with Afghanistan. The moral of the story is that it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to resolve the security problems facing us on our border with Afghanistan without overcoming the problem of Talibanization within the country. The latter requires above all a full-fledged debate in our parliament to lay threadbare the nature of the problem and agree upon a mix of political, economic, administrative, educational and security measures for its resolution. There is an equally compelling need to evolve a comprehensive and coherent policy to manage our relations with Afghanistan based on national consensus and arrived at again through an exhaustive debate in the parliament. The starting point of this policy should be a national determination to refrain from interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs in contrast with the adventurous policy of 1990's. As suggested earlier in these columns, we would be well-advised to learn from history and follow a policy of "masterly inactivity" as did the British after their unhappy experiences in Afghanistan instead of pursuing what one would call a "forward policy". The policy of masterly inactivity should encompass a helpful attitude towards Afghanistan in general to assist it, whenever and wherever required, in the tasks of national reconciliation, peace and development being fully cognizant all the time that the ultimate responsibility for these tasks lies with the Afghan people and government. We cannot expect success in our Afghanistan policy without evolving a coherent and well thought-out policy towards our tribal areas bordering Afghanistan because of the cross-border tribal links. On the one hand, we must do all that is possible for us to deny sanctuaries to Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban elements in our tribal areas and prevent cross-border incursions inside Afghanistan from our territory by engaging our tribesmen in an intensive political dialogue and taking simultaneously necessary security measures. On the other, it is also necessary to impress upon the US and NATO governments that unless the grievances of the Pakhtoons in Afghanistan are removed and they are given a fair share in running the affairs of the country by engaging the moderate Taliban and the Pakhtoon tribes in a political dialogue, the internal armed conflict in Afghanistan will continue. And as long as the armed conflict and political turmoil in Afghanistan continue, the danger is that despite Pakistan's best efforts cross-border incursions in Afghanistan will continue to take place. The revival of a political dialogue in Afghanistan to engage the moderate Taliban and isolate Al-Qaeda and extremist Taliban elements should be combined with the holding of an international conference to launch a new international initiative for peace and development in Afghanistan in follow-up to the Bonn process. Needless to add that the situation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border also calls for increased cooperation and coordination between the US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan's security forces to avoid misunderstandings. In dealing with the instances of violations of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by the US forces, we should avoid both the extremes of confrontation with Washington which we cannot afford and a meek surrender at the cost of our national sovereignty. Obviously this whole exercise needs to be carried out within the framework of an over-all Afghanistan policy which should be enunciated publicly by our political leadership after a thorough debate in the parliament. The writer is a former ambassador. E-mail: