Imran Malik One of Napoleon Bonapartes greatest innovations in the grand and operational strategy was the Strategy of the Central Position, or SCP, which had critical and decisive applications on the battlefields, as well as in statecraft. The US has apparently taken a leaf out of the Napoleonic Grand Strategy and adopted a variant of the SCP to project state power across the South-Central Asian Region (SCAR). By occupying Afghanistan it has manoeuvred itself into the classic 'central position in the SCAR, and by implication in the Greater Middle East Region (GMER). This grand manoeuvre to occupy the geographical centre of gravity of the SCAR-GMER complex gives the USA far reaching strategic advantages and a virtual stranglehold and lien over the geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic destinies of the region. Geopolitical Compulsions: The US feels that its interests are threatened by the SCO, particularly with Iran, Pakistan and India lining up to join in. By occupying Afghanistan, America can, thus, dominate the SCO and check its expanding influence in the SCAR-GMER. The USA potential containment of China gains credence, too, encouraging India further to sign up as a formidable Asian counterweight to it, while nuclear Pakistan remains under check and pressure. India, with US connivance, expects to retain its strategic foothold in Afghanistan keeping Pakistan off balance. Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their cohorts remain engaged and on the run. More so, Iran comes under multidimensional threats and is compelled to cover its flanks, rear and front. The US also, more or less, neutralises all major regional threats to Israel. Geostrategic Compulsions: This US presence ensures that the SCO sphere of influence is circumscribed. It also keeps Russia effectively away from the warm waters of the Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean and China from a direct access to Afghanistan and Iran. It actualises Chinas encirclement. The USA has a virtual noose around Iran and all its economic and strategic assets - through its presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and through the activities of Jundullah along the Pak-Iran border. Furthermore, Iran, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Pakistan, its armed forces and nuclear assets, too, remain within strategic oversight. Pakistan is kept embroiled with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, thus, distracting it from its eastern borders, as well as Kashmir - to Indias great strategic advantage. Israel gains as Iran gets preoccupied with these threats. The strategically important Straits of Hormuz, and Arabian Sea/Persian Gulf ports at Chabahar, Bandar Abbas, Gwadar, Karachi, Port Qasim et al remain within the US strategic reach too. Geo-economic Compulsions: It would make for great regional integration and collective economic advancement where a vast network of trans-GMER and trans-SCAR trade corridors to emerge. Roads, railways, power transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines from the Middle East and the CARs could move through Afghanistan and Pakistan onto the vast markets of China and India and even beyond. And Pakistan is that only critical space that provides that vital link between these sources and their potential markets. But by occupying the 'central position and interposing itself in the region, the US emerges as a spoiler - the sole controller, beneficiary and determinant of the economic future of the region. It has clearly impinged upon that critical and sensitive space in the SCAR-GMER complex where the Chinese, the Russians and the Indians have huge investments and where Pakistan, Iran and CARs have core national interests. Russia, China and India have significant stakes in the CARs, in Irans nuclear, oil and gas sectors, as well as Afghanistans projected mineral wealth ($1-3trillion). Pakistans mineral and oil and gas rich Balochistan province, too, has attracted international investments. The USAs negative influence has already delayed projects (TAPI, IPI), and scared India out of the IPI project and some international investors out of the region. The regional economic outlook, therefore, remains hostage to Washingtons strategic interests. The paradigms and dynamics of the war are, however, changing. The US is not winning the war and would be loathe to lose this strategically vital central position and with it Washingtons strategic goals in the region. It would still want to exert itself as the sole superpower of the world though its economic strength or the lack of it will determine that. In order to further pursue its strategic interests, the US will need regional allies. India could have been the ideal one, but it just does not have the credentials to project meaningful power and take on the role of the regional cop. The newly trained Afghan army is unlikely to have any major impact on the post-2014 period on its own. In these drastically changed strategic environments, in particular post-2014, the best course of action for the USA would be to maintain its presence through the five joint US-Afghan bases (at Shindand, Mazar-i-Sharif, Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar), conduct joint counter terrorism operations with the Afghan army and garner Pakistans support for achieving its ultimate strategic ends. That might mean a revamping of the entire strategic alliance between the two, a redetermination of a common strategic direction and mutually agreed upon revised terms of engagement. Both allies will have to overcome their respective egos and chronic mutual mistrust, work selflessly as a team and respect each others key interests, sensitivities and sensibilities to win the war. Else the region will remain eternally destabilised and the US will end up following the British and the Soviets into the sordid annals of our regional history as yet another sorry loser in the Great Game The writer is a retired brigadier and a defence analyst. Email: im_k@hotmail.com