David Miliband's agenda for his recent visit to Pakistan, inter alia, included taking Pakistan into confidence regarding the forthcoming International Conference on Afghanistan and formulation of the 'Regional Council on Afghanistan'. The UK has been actively pursuing the setting up of a regional stabili-sation council after holding an international conference on Afghanistan, which is now plan-ned for January 28. Nevertheless, stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan are intricately interdependent. Hence, any initiative towards this objective must comprehensively address all destabilising factors through appropriate remedial measures. Likewise, all factors which could stren-gthen tranquillity in these two terror stricken states must be reinforced. The size of the council must remain lean yet viable, including all contiguous countries. Similarly the mandate should be discreet and focused. If well managed, the initiative could provide an opportunity for a fresh look at the issue and recommend a paradigm shift in the strategy for achieving a stable Afghanistan. Hopefully, the conference and the council would be able to make a significant intellectual and material contribution for making Afghanistan and, as a corollary, Pakistan peaceful states. The conference must take cognisance of the changed operational environment prevailing in Afghanistan. From a War on Terror, as it started in the wake of 9/11, it has now transformed into a nationwide struggle against the foreign occupation of Afghanistan. From the saviour of the Afghan population from a tyrant and terror supporting Taliban regime, now Americans are widely perceived as usurpers who have stakes in perpetual instability of Afghanistan for justifying the presence of their garrison on almost a permanent basis. Notwithstanding numerous fiction-like and other theories supporting this notion, it is this widespread perception prevailing that needs to be corrected if distinction between extremist gangs and res-istance fighters is to be made. It is rather alarming that the anti-occupation sentiment that was once confined to the lower social strata of Afghanistan, is being embraced by the intelligentsia and upper strata as well, and that too at a phenomenal speed. It is in this backdrop that international community ne-eds to accept the reality that initiative for solution to the Afghanistan issue has quietly shifted from the military-based to a mediation-based approach. Once this fundamental reality is home to the participants of the conference, realistic and viable options would flow out. Thus, the first conclusion could be that time is out for surge series and is critically ripe for a mediation-based dialogue offensive. Needless to say, military surge operations devoid of a viable political process is known for courting disaster in its various manifestations like massacre, exodus, collapse of infrastructure, destruction of habitat, etc, and hence diminishing the prospects of an early political solution. Out of two streams of foreign forces viz ISAF and American/NATO combine, the former is viewed as legitimate and the latter as illegitimate. Nevertheless, ISAF has lost its independence and hence it is viewed as an appendage of the occupation forces. Composition of ISAF is predominantly from non-Muslim states, and hence is viewed, by the locals, with scorn and mistrust. Therefore, it is essential that the occupation forces should leave as soon as possible; the composition related distortions of ISAF should be corrected to make it acceptable. ISAF composed of contingents from Muslim countries (excluding those from the proximity of combat zone) could provide a post de-occupation stability mechanism as UN peace-keepers. Another factor that must come up for deliberations is that as fallout of the charade electoral machinations, and carry forward of previous faade of political dispensation of Afghanistan, the government of President Karzai lacks public acceptance and hence political viability. The recent standoff between the president and Parliament, on the issue of Cabinet formulation has duly demonstrated the fragility of the regime. So to become politically tenable, the government needs to be retransformed into a broad based entity enjoying popular acceptance. It would require complex intra-Afghan dialogue to create space for polit-ical accommodation for the moderate Taliban, who in fact have already enforced their writ over Afghanistan sans presidential palace, limited urban holdings and cantonments of the occupation forces. The term Taliban is no longer limited to militant extremists; it now applies to political activists of all sorts with a common agenda to strive for the de-occupation of Afghanistan. Pragmatism requires that these de facto rulers be brought into the mainstream political activity. Moreover, excessive application of military power, specifically the widespread devastation caused by indiscreet use of air power, has created hatred against the occupation forces. Undeniably, disproportionate application of air power forces the extremist fighters to flee towards Pakistan through the porous border that creates a hide and seek environment between the extremists and the occupation forces. Therefore, the suggestions must flow out for revision of the concept of operation. In this context, Pakistan needs to be viewed as a victim of faulty American COIN, COTE and OCO strategies in Afghanistan, and not as an epicentre or a breeding ground for terrorism. In addition, the structuring of the security forces of Afghanistan, i.e. police and army is lopsided, as it is not a mirror reflection of the national demographic profile. These forces are being officered mainly by Tajik and Hazara minorities, hence the Pashtun majority is feeling left out. As a reaction, Pashtuns have developed abhorrence of the security outfits and perceive them as tools of the occupation forces. Such aversion is likely to cause post-withdrawal instability; hence it needs correction. Demography-wise, Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic polity. Each bordering country also houses at least one such ethnic group, and the number of such ethnic groups living in adjoining states is larger than that living in Afghanistan. Thus, regional demographic composition embraces all destab-ilising factors associated with such a diversity. Therefore, what goes on inside Afghanistan disturbs the bordering states as well, especially the ones inhabited with the troubled ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Traditionally porous borders make unregulated interstate movement easy, whereby it is difficult to ascertain who's who. It would require a concerted effort to regulate interstate borders, needing international economic and technical support in the domains of installation of biometric systems, fencing of borders and the like. It would be appropriate if the conference comes out with a workable action plan for plugging this inadequacy. Beside other factors, rise of extremism in this region has its roots in the mismanagement of human resource. Development projects aimed at creating jobs for the youth would help in reducing the appeal of extremist elements, and their recruitment would decline sharply. What's more, India is carrying out a mammoth effort for carving a permanent niche for itself in post de-occupation Afghanistan. It is utilising its oversized diplomatic presence in Afghanistan for supporting and sponsoring subversive activities in the border areas of Pakistan, adjoining Afghanistan. This sets into motion a vicious destabilisation process in Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan; this monstrous development needs attention of the comity of nations. We in Pakistan view with hope any initiative aimed at infusing stability into Afghanistan, and as a corollary in Pakistan. London's initiative has once again aroused hope in the region. It must take a fresh and holistic look at the imbroglio and come out with some 'out of the box' recommendations. Mere reiteration of the current policy, strategy and stereotyping would indeed be a disappointment. The writer is a former assistant of the Chief of Air Staff, PAF. Email: khalid3408@gmail.com