I M Mohsin A speculative news item carried by The New York Times during last week set off ripples in the American political circle. To guard against some vicious reaction from the rightwing, President Barack Obamas senior Advisor David Alexrod felt obliged to issue last Sunday a clarification about the state of the ongoing war and attempts at reaching a settlement with the Taliban. Prior to that Secretary Robert Gates had explained his perception of the current ground realities in Afghanistan. Claiming to have told President George Bush, on accepting the office of Secretary Defence, he reiterated that Afghanistan had received scant attention from the Republican administration. He, however, indicated that post-surge developments had undercut the Taliban advance under the new strategy this year. If the objective conditions are any guide, such a statement would appear to be wishful. Then, if this were so, the Taliban would not have publicly spurned the peaceful overtures being made by President Hamid Karzai. This appears to be a part of a baffling strategy being pursued by the US Department of Defence or general staff whereby attacks by the Taliban are being ignored. Instead thereof insinuations are being made that the 'enemy is losing ground. Repeating the statement of Karzai made before the peace jirga, Alexrod said that a new government could emerge in Kabul wherein the Taliban would form a coalition. Such an arrangement would ensure security for the people and this would lead to the start of the requisite development process in a safer environment. He also expressed the hope that on joining such an arrangement, the Taliban would lay down their arms and devote their undivided attention to the reconstruction of their war-torn country. Citing this as an indispensable condition, he still expressed the hope that Karzais efforts will bear fruit as there are many indications to that effect. Indeed, this appears to be more of a psychological warfare and less of a strategy for the people of the region concerned. Such assertions may lull the public opinion in the US, to some extent, but for the Afghans it is like 'Alice in Wonderland. In Afghanistan, the people generally are baffled as they cannot correlate the prevailing mess to such homilies. While Karzai and his mentors are active on the propaganda front, the Taliban are maintaining a queer silence besides launching attacks against the US forces at places of their choice subject to their own programme. Whenever they speak up, they only display their derision for such conciliatory initiatives. The New York Times report also utilised a statement made by Amrullah Saleh, the 36-year old former intelligence chief, to the effect that Karzai was holding private discussions with the Taliban and Pakistan. Incidentally, Saleh was fired by the Kabul government following the brazen attacks by the Taliban on the peace jirga. Apparently, his 'revelation should have made no news which the concerned journalist tried to blow up. But Alexrod also hinted at the same in his reply on Saleh, calling his assertions as coloured. Saleh had also indicated that the US wanted to 'rule Afghanistan which had frustrated too many people. On this, the US presidential Advisor made it clear that his countrys objective could be easily specified. He maintained: The mission is about Al-Qaeda, about putting pressure on Al-Qaeda on both sides of the border, about not letting Afghanistan become a safe harbour, safe haven for Al-Qaeda again. Wanting to sound more convincing, he went on to emphasise: Ultimately this is about our security and thats why we are there. The Advisor also recounted some of the successes scored by the US forces since the new administration took over. He stressed that half of the Talibans top 20 leaders had been killed, thanks to the cooperation extended by the Government of Pakistan. Likewise, some operations conducted in Afghanistan had also yielded similar results. However, to back up the ongoing peace overtures in Kabul, he concluded: At the end of the day, however, weve always said that this will involve the future of Afghans.It will involve a political solution just as it did in Iraq. Nevertheless, President Ka-rzai seems to be pushing ahead with his peace mission in a manner which no 'Vichy government can ever afford to do. His mentors, the US, have to be connected to the said stance all over to bring peace to Afghanistan. Lately, the US administration is openly supporting such moves although till early this year they were prone to keep mum. Britains new Prime Minister David Cameron after visiting Afghanistan last week has also used a very diplomatic lingo to reflect a similar approach. His statement to the House of Commons on Monday reflected his serious interest in pulling out of this quagmire. He has lately claimed that Al-Qaeda is really weakened for now, implying that the Afghans should take over their own security so that the foreign troops can be divested from Afghanistan quic-kly. This is also the stated position of President Barack Obama, who wants to start withdrawing his forces by mid next year. Even if it holds good, Sergei Ivanov, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, thinks that the US troops would have to stay longer than the Russians did in Afghanistan. A US report suggests that huge deposits of iron, copper, gold and lithium have been discovered worth a trillion dollars. If this is so, then it raises the stakes for both the Afghans and the American administration. So far, the US administration has been known to be heavily influenced by its oil lobby in the post-9/11 conduct towards the ongoing war. Now another dimension would be involved. The US has certainly lost a lot of goodwill among the Afghans already and what the neocons might do now will hurt the US badly. In this scenario, Russia may also want to benefit from such a valuable resource next door. However, it may find many difficulties in its way. The Chinese stand a good chance of winning the goodwill of the Afghans despite the fact that it may provoke ire of the Indians, who are being built by the US for a peculiar role in the region. Above all, Pakistan could be crucial in the fruitful utilisation of such natural resources by Afghanistan. The two countries can cooperate with China and co-opt some other ally to successfully hit out of trouble. The writer is a former Secretary Interior.