THE carte blanche to select an appropriate time to launch a ground offensive in South Waziristan, which the countrys political leaders gave to the army on Friday, was, it seems, exactly the signal the top brass was impatiently waiting for, as the morning after the world woke up to learn that the jawans, laced with their fighting gear, were already marching in. One can confidently conclude that General Kayanis briefing at the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Gilani and participated by various parties from across the political divide centred on making a case for an urgent operation and holding out the assurance that his men were all ready to take up the challenge. One should have thought that the decision-makers would avoid an unseemly haste, in the backdrop of previous humiliating reverses that had, three times in the past, resulted in ceding to the militants demands and acknowledging their hold over the Agency, rather than tamely cave in to the US pressure. Washingtons interests, while they coincide with ours as far as the principle of seeing an end to the forces of extremism is concerned, could at the same time be at variance on how to go about doing it. The US not only is fighting a losing battle in Afghanistan but also is unable to persuade most of its NATO allies to commit their forces to trouble spots; and for movement of militants across the border it keeps singling out Pakistan for blame, forgetting its own responsibility as the principal occupation power. Eight years into the war it fails to realise that the real strength of resistance lies within Afghanistan itself. But it cannot succeed in trying to stick its failure on Waziristan sanctuaries. Our national interest demanded that both the political leaders, who reportedly demonstrated a consensus on rooting out the elements that threatened the sovereignty and integrity of the state, and the military strategists, who went in for quick action, would take into account the harsh realities that could cause another setback: the most inappropriate of times, as the snowy winter sets in any moment in the most inhospitable of terrains, with hidden caves and tricky ravines. A lot more serious are the questions of the safety of those innocent patriotic citizens who find themselves caught up in the crossfire and the fear of their alienation. Absolute care is also called for to ensure that those who feel compelled to join the militant bands out of fear of reprisals are isolated and only those who show inflexibility in not accepting the writ of the state are targeted. The spate of suicide bombings the country witnessed in the past few days could panic ordinary souls but governments must find the loopholes that defy security checks and weigh the options of going headlong into a risky venture.