WHILE American President-elect Barack Obama's statement, that he would order a quick drawdown of troops from Iraq as soon as he formally occupies the White House on January 20, makes good sense, his view that Osama bin Laden is "critical" to US security is open to question, to say the least. Mr bin Laden, if still alive, is, as any strategist would have realised by now, barely a titular head of Al-Qaeda and his removal from the scene would hardly make a difference. Not only that. Al-Qaeda has become more or less a mythical concept, with so many disparate militant outfits, led by their own commanders, carrying out its mission whose immediate focus is the vacation of Muslim lands by foreign forces. They are all conveniently termed as Al-Qaeda or, in the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban. That also puts into question the second part of Mr Obama's plan of combating terrorism, injecting more troops into the Afghan arena. What he should be thinking about is how soon to extricate the GIs from the killing fields of both Iraq and Afghanistan, let the local population heave a sigh of relief from the daily massacre of their kith and kin, in accordance with his general humanitarian outlook, and retrieve the American image by redressing the grievances that led defenceless people take up arms against US imperialism. Further heating up of the Afghan scene and continuing with senseless Predator attacks on Pakistan's tribal region would worsen the climate, irrespective of whether there exists 'a tacit understanding' about them between Washington and Islamabad: Washington Post quotes authentic sources that there was, but Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi vehemently denies there was any. As it is evident, however, these aerial forays result in huge civilian casualties, cause a backlash against Pakistan on the one hand, and induce hordes of otherwise peaceful citizens to enlist with militant bodies. Can one expect a serious thinker like Mr Obama to break out of the vicious circle?