Operation Moshtarak, the largest since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, was launched on February 13, 2010 and is a joint operation by ISAF comprising military personnel drawn from the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Estonia, Canada and the Afghan forces. The offensive is an area described as the poppy growing belt of Helmand province in Southern Afghanistan, focusing on Nad Ali and Lashkar Gah districts, initially targeting Marjah, which had been controlled for years by the Taliban as well as drug traffickers. The assault is the first major operation involving the US forces since President Barack Obamas latest troop surge decision for Afghanistan. The build-up is part of an effort to turn the tide of the war before the USAs 'exit plan to commence in 2011. Officials also believe that a series of military gains could make it easier to entice fighters away from Taliban ranks. The endeavour to talk to the Taliban is a far cry from earlier US strategy in the region, when the common refrain was there are no good or bad Taliban; the only good Taliban are the dead Taliban. Last week Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani briefed a group of defence analysts and shared with us the presentation he had made to the heads of 45 armed forces at the NATO Commanders Conference in Brussels last month. The stirring briefing, followed by a candid question and answer session, cleared many cobwebs regarding the military operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Moreover, discussing the Afghan strategy announced by US President Obama two key points emerged: consideration of the constants of Afghan geography, culture and history and a measure of success defined by public support. The litmus test of policy is that options should increase otherwise a review of the policy is necessitated. General Kayani lent credence to his suggestions through a graphic display of the Pakistan armys Swat and South Waziristan operations, the armys casualties, the resort to the key points outlined above and application of the time-tested principles of clear, hold, build and transfer. Kayanis use of analogies easily comprehended in the west must have driven home the point to his audience in Brussels. The success stories of Swat and South Waziristan speak for themselves, especially the fact that the myth of invincibility of Waziristan was shattered as a territory, which in earlier centuries had brought previous assailants the ignominy of retreat. The essence of the briefing was how it was achieved. It was breathtaking to share the heights surmounted; two brigade heliborne operations in Peochar, the daring assaults along the treacherous ridges around Ladha, Makin, Sararogha, Garmsheher and Kunigram, the element of surprise to outmanoeuvre a fleeting and treacherous enemy which preferred to employ guerrilla attack and slink away in the shadows rather than face direct assault. Pakistans unaided and single-handed silent troop surge of the employment of upto 147, 000 soldiers, the sacrifice of 8,785 casualties suffered vis--vis 1639 of the US/NATO forces comprising 43 nations must have driven home the aspects of Pakistans contribution to the Brussels addressees. More importantly, General Kayani shared that he had hosted the US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Admiral Mike Mullen, on a guided tour of the area of operations in the tribal belt. After being exposed to the ground realities, witnessing the successful employment of force and the safe return of the IDPs. More so, observing the warmth and exuberance of the local population towards Pakistans armed forces, the admiral exclaimed that he would send General Stanley McChrystal to get an exposure to Pakistans success story. It is apparent that in the Operation Moshtarak and beyond, one catches glimpses of lessons from General Kayanis briefing, which also highlighted the way forward. He recommended that the fundamentals of army, media, public opinion and comprehensive strategy, if weak need to be strengthened. The comprehensive strategy must be aimed at clearing the area of the miscreants, holding it till such time the building of local forces and infrastructure take place and then transfer control to the resident security forces. However, the blowback of the US/NATO operations in Pakistan has been tremendous in terms of the ingress of terrorism and attempts to destabilise it. Certainly, the strategic paradigm must take into cognisance Pakistans status as the second largest Muslim nation, its competing interests, the nuclear overhang, the Pashtun factor, and the advent of Afghan refugees residing in the Pakistani territory. The strategic constraints comprise the non-state actors, national and military capacity to absorb and operate, the limited cutting edge military capacity and budgetary space. General Kayani reiterated that Pakistan desires a peaceful coexistence with its eastern neighbours, but remains India-centric since threat perception is based on the adversarys capabilities and not intentions. Indias history, the outstanding issues including Kashmir and lately its Pakistan-centric 'Cold Start Strategy are all causes for concern. He crystallised Pakistans traditional stand on Afghanistan and warmth towards the people of that country, emphasising that he wished for Afghanistan what he wished for Pakistan. In the same spirit he had offered to train the Afghan national army and police as well as mediate in talks with the Taliban. The implication of Afghanistan providing strategic depth to Pakistan does not translate into controlling Afghanistan, but having a tension free western border. Operation Moshtarak and beyond must take into consideration that there is no blowback to Pakistan, at the same time, trusting and enabling Pakistan, allowing it space to manoeuvre and operate while avoiding direct or indirect destabilisation of Pakistan. The USAs responsibility is spelt out by Gordon Duff, a marine Vietnam veteran and former UN diplomat. He said: The US must take into cognisance that 25 million Pashtun live on just the other side of the border in Pakistan. With the right help for Pakistan, the right economic programmes and leadership, both countries could be helped and lives, perhaps millions, could be saved without pouring billions of useless dollars into the pockets of defence contractors infesting the halls of Congress, some with the arrogance and blatant insensibility of our actual elected leaders. The writer is a political and defence analyst.