The assertion that Pakistan lacks a robust plan to defeat the Taliban was contained in a critical report, which came out barely three months before President Barack Obama is to announce the programme for the gradual withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan. The issue invites an earnest analysis to accurately define the challenge confronting Pakistan. A famous historian of civilisations, Arnold J. Toynbee, in his explanation of the rise-and-decline of civilisations identified the sequence of challenge and response in his multivolume work, A Study of History. The offering of appropriate responses to the emerging challenges paves way to the rise of a civilisation. However, in case the response remains inappropriate to a particular challenge, the same challenge keeps recurring and decline sets in. Another way to view the issue of Taliban confronting Pakistan will be to assess it in the perspective of future possibilities in the context of US withdrawal of forces, or even in that of post-NATO Afghanistan. This involves the consciousness of seizing the hour and the opportunity, that is, timeliness of the approach to realise the potentials existing in the referred situation. However, during this discourse, effort will be in the identification of the confronting challenge, with the emphasis upon its accurate definition. As a consequence of the invasion and military occupation of Afghanistan by the former USSR during 1979-89, Islamic Jihadist movement comprising the mujahideen arose to liberate Afghanistan. Through their heroic militant struggle, the USSR was forced to withdraw its military occupation. In its aftermath, and abrupt abandonment of Afghanistan and closure of its Embassy in Kabul by the US, a period of instability and civil war ensued. During the mid 90s, a militant movement led by former mujahideens under Mullah Umar arose in Kandahar from South Afghanistan to restore order, unify Afghanistan and establish an Islamic rule in Kabul. The students from the madrassahs, known as the Taliban, participated in this nationalist, Islamic militant movement, which came to be designated after them. Dictator Musharraf, on USAs urging in 2004, dispatched army contingents in FATA. This measure was meant to curtail the infiltration of militants from the eastern side of the Durand Line into Afghanistan, to avoid attacks against the US/NATO forces. On this pretext, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) under Baitullah Mehsud came into being to launch terrorist attacks against Pakistan, as a prominent part of its agenda. Afterwards, it drew no distinction in this regard between the state and civil society in Pakistan. The fact that the TTP has seriously erred in dividing the focus of liberating Afghanistan from the US-led foreign military occupation at present, provides a definitive indication of its flawed agenda. The US strategy concerning the Taliban, FATA sanctuaries for the militants, and Pakistan can be understood from the analogy of the Vietnam War. Former US President Richard Nixon in his authored work, The Real War, maintained that three critical events eventually turned the promise of victory into the fact of defeat in Vietnam. The use of sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia by N. Vietnamese as staging ground for their assault on S. Vietnam; the sanctuaries lengthened the border the South had to defend nearly 16 times of that otherwise available; and the US failure to prevent the establishment of Ho Chi Minh Trail along Laos eastern border. With this in view, the Indo-US strategy of inducing insurgency with the means of Taliban-like mercenaries is meant to influence the final outcome in the war. With an understanding of the US strategy in facilitating the TTP agenda, the nefarious role of India in establishing multiple Consulates in Afghanistan along the Pakistan border emerges in its true dimensions. The recruitment and organisation of the insurgents in those Consulates was to initiate terrorism directed against Pakistan. The test of the Pakistani Talibans genuine response, that is, devoid of blameworthiness, resided in the approach that was not to have compromised the focus of freedom struggle in Afghanistan, and it would have coned down its retaliation against the limited number of local (Pakistani) decision makers involved. Are there any reasons for making distinctions between the Taliban with their agenda in Afghanistan widely known, and those that represent an adulterated agenda with identifiable adverse consequences? First, the Islamic movement has enacted its role twice in the freedom struggle in Afghanistan within the recent memory, and the outcomes have been obviously satisfactory. For the preservation of this historical tradition with an eye on the future, any vitiation of the inspiring concepts and ideas can be avoided with the aid of the noted distinctions. For instance, the just and humanitarian image of Islam is to be preserved. Second, in the prospective sense, in Afghanistan during the post-US invasion period, the memorable Islamic traditions and ennobling concepts are anticipated to serve a unifying function in a state where any civil disorder or war will pose a substantial national security challenge to Pakistan. Third, a realistic interpretation of facts becomes a source of clarity and strength for the society, as would be the case subsequent to the presence of distinctions between two types of Taliban. And, finally, as a possible anticipation of future in case the TTP initiate their activities in India, the existing distinctions would stand to serve Pakistans official stance both in South Asia and in the world. Such a possibility does not merely belong to the domain of theoretical expression, for a statement by Interior Minister Rehman Malik discloses that the Taliban are now expected to start their activities in India too. Hakimullah Mehsud, the present Ameer of the TTP, is also on record to state that the TTP would operate in India once there is an Islamic state in Pakistan. In this perspective, it is certainly imaginable that in the interim - until a supposed new set-up in Pakistan emerges - the maxim adopted by India is, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, that is, India has opted for a friendly attitude towards TTP, for it is opposed to Pakistan. There are more than one plausible ways to view such a possible occurrence to involve India. After all, India during the past almost score years has been involved in the recruitment, training, arming and financing of the insurgents in Afghanistan. Any serious misunderstanding or rift between India and the insurgents, on a number of imaginable grounds, can erupt in a retaliatory response from the insurgent Taliban. Such a denouement of Indian clandestine involvement in Afghanistan, under the aegis of the US, without exaggeration can be viewed as a blowback phenomenon, outcome of the natural law of just retribution, or unintended consequences of Chanakyan - alternatively, Indian Machiavellian - scheme. On the contrary, the indistinction between the two types of Taliban is to the advantage of the US military occupation in Afghanistan, for it aids in besmirching the Islamic image of Taliban, and it diminishes the recruitment of freedom fighters from the eastern side of the Durand Line for Afghanistan. The distinctions between the two types of Taliban should be under the designations of the Taliban and Taliban-like mercenaries, due to the above cited as well as ensuing reasons, in preference to the distinctions being made between good and bad Taliban, or Pakistani and Afghan Taliban. The distinguishing features should comprise: i Origin: The Taliban arose in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and civil war. The Taliban-like mercenaries arose in consequence of the US invasion of Afghanistan and Indo-US collusion there. i Motive: The former operate to liberate Afghanistan from the US-led - including India as a US accomplice - foreign military occupation. And the latter function apparently to oppose the US occupation of Afghanistan. However, this military outfit actually operates to spread violence in Pakistan so as to indirectly, unwittingly nudge Pakistan to conform to the US agenda in Afghanistan, and to bring about the disintegration of the state to aid the Indian scheme. i Ethnic affiliation: The Taliban are mostly Afghan Pashtuns, and maintain ethnic loyalty. The latter represent admixture of FATA tribal, Afghan Pashtun and national alliance elements, recruits from Central Asian Republics, and Punjabis, with no regard for Pashtun ethnic loyalty. i Ideological characterisation: The Taliban are staunch Muslims with jihadi motto. The mercenary Taliban maintain Islamic pretensions, however, with contrasting politico-military conduct and subscription to mercenary agenda. i Support from other states: There is some public perception that the Taliban draw support from elements in Pakistan nation-state. On the contrary, the Taliban-like mercenaries - that is, paid fighters from foreign sources - are drawing recognised support from the Indo-US combine. In the maintenance of the distinctions between the two types of Taliban, three main aspects are to be kept in sight. First, in the present-day setting, no major militant outfit can function, sustain itself and operate against a domestic or external state unless another state is aiding it. Second, as reported also by Anatol Lieven, an academician and a senior editor at The National Interest, in a recent writing following his visit to Swat, that the Pakistani military has only been able to motivate its men to fight against the Pakistani Taliban, as India is backing them in an effort to destroy Pakistan. And, finally, not to be ignored is the fact that the future of Afghanistan as well as the peace and stability in the subcontinent may indeed be tangibly determined on the basis of the outlined distinctions. n The writer is Chairman of the Pakistan Ideological Forum Email: