President Obama completes his first month as the newly elected non-white president in the White House. There may be disillusioned views and voices over his performance in this short period but for any objective analyst, his record is not so bad. He is in command with remarkable confidence despite the daunting nature of his challenges. In thirty days, President Obama has taken quick steps to "break" sharply from his predecessor's legacy by focusing on the economy, repairing a battered world image and cleaning up the government. Within hours after moving into the White House, Obama overturned some of the Bush policies including closure of the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison camp and bringing detainees' interrogation methods in conformity with the legally prescribed norms and techniques. But in practical terms, these measures may not soon be seen in effect. The homeland security system built by the outgoing administration seems to have become an albatross that will not be so easy to get rid of. According to The New York Times: "Even as it pulls back from harsh interrogations and other sharply debated aspects" of George W Bush 's "war on terrorism," the Obama administration is quietly signalling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor's approach to fighting Al-Qaeda. These include the continued application of the "state secrets" doctrine and military commission trials of CIA detainees. These and other signs suggest that eventually, the new administration's highly acclaimed changes may turn out to be less sweeping than many had hoped or feared. Already the civil liberties groups in America and the world are beginning to worry about the prospects of the Bush torture policies continuing while a sense of "vindication" among the supporters of Bush-era policies is visibly growing. This may become yet another case of "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." The more things change, the more they remain the same. Perhaps, the American minds have also been infected with this phenomenon over the last seven years of their "alliance" with Pakistan. We are masters in preserving status quos, and even after elections in February, 2008, we have chosen to continue with the outgoing dictator's legacy. There is no change of policies or issues. But let us talk of America. On the external front, President Obama had signalled a new direction in US foreign policy bringing change in America's global conduct and behaviour. Obama had promised to "remake" America so as to recover its lost "moral standing" and to make the difference in the lives of its own people as well as those of the world. He pledged to end the war in Iraq and defeat Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. He has indeed moved decisively in this direction and has shown consistency in his avowed approach towards dealing with his external challenges. He has appointed George Mitchell as his special representatives for the Middle East and Richard Holbrooke as his special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Both are known to be world class peace-makers with crowning atonements in the mid-90s. George Mitchell played a key role in the Irish peace process while Holbrooke negotiated the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the Bosnian war. Both have just visited their respective "mission" areas to feel the "lay of the ground." On Afghanistan and Pakistan, representing America's "other war", Obama has also gone ahead with another of his policy decision by approving deployment of additional 17,000 troops in Afghanistan. This is seen as his first significant move to change the course of a conflict that his closest military advisers have warned the US is not winning. About 8,000 Marines are expected to go in first, followed by about 9,000 Army troops. Some 34,000 US troops are already in Afghanistan. Most of the extra forces will be sent to southern Afghanistan, where a shortage of US and NATO troops face an intensifying Taliban insurgency. The new troops could be a "down payment" on an even larger influx of US forces that has been widely expected this year, and it will get forces in place in time for the increase in fighting that usually comes with warmer weather and ahead of national midyear elections. President Obama has himself said that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. This could be an alibi to justify his decision to go ahead with the military "surge." But in an interview to Canadian Broadcasting Corp. ahead of his visit to Ottawa this week, he also admitted candidly: "I am absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban and the spread of extremism in the region solely through military means" and added: "We're going to have to use diplomacy, we're going to have to use development." There could not be a clearer pronouncement by a US president on the future direction of his preferred policy on Afghanistan. No wonder he chose a deliverer Richard Holbrooke as his special envoy for this area. Given this high-profile move, President Obama has surely given a loud message that while the planned military "surge" would remain the coercive "back-up" option, he would be counting more on diplomatic and economic "engagement" as a parallel but elevated track in pursuit of durable peace in this volatile region. Obama publicly recognises the need for a broader approach to be successful in resolving the conflict in Afghanistan. "We are going to need more effective, coordination of our military efforts with diplomatic efforts, with development efforts, with more effective coordination with our allies in order for us to be successful," President Obama recently told a news conference. Meanwhile, he has ordered an inter-agency policy review to determine new US approach on Afghanistan and Pakistan before the NATO summit in April. Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer with pro-India leanings is heading the review which will focus on both military and non-military aspects of the US policy in the region. The panel would however be co-chaired by Richard Holbrooke, Obama's newly named special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and Michele Flournoy, co-founder of the Center for a New American Security, who has just been confirmed as the new undersecretary of defence for policy. A process of "getting US policy toward Islamabad refocused is already afoot in the form of Kerry-Lugar bill for more security and non-security aid to Pakistan devoted in part to developing tribal areas where Al-Qaeda militants are believed to be flourishing. The US has repeatedly said that Osama bin Laden and other top Al-Qaeda militants are hiding in the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. Richard Holbrooke was recently in the region with a clear mission to look at how to overcome the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, crush Al-Qaeda and make sure neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan is used as a base for followers of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. As a follow-up to his visit, the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan will travel to Washington next week to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and make their own input in the US policy review. Appearing in the "New Hour" on PBS, Holbrooke described these exchanges as "a manifestation of a new, intense, engaged diplomacy designed to put Afghanistan and Pakistan into a larger regional context and move forward to engage other countries in the effort to stabilise this incredibly volatile region." He also acknowledged that victory as defined in military terms is not achievable in Afghanistan. "What we're looking for is the definition of our vital national security interests," he said. On our part, let us also define our own vital national security interests. Our foremost challenge at this critical juncture is not what we are required to do for others' interests; it is what we ought to do to serve our own national interests. Before the Obama policy review, let us make a strong case to regain our lost sovereign independence, freedom of action and national dignity. If the US is genuinely convinced that no strategy for Afghanistan will succeed without Pakistan's assistance, it must reinforce Pakistan's capacity and capability to fight the insurgency in its tribal areas. It is no longer important whose war is this. We are facing the apocalypse now. We must all join together in combating this threat. This would require adequate political and economic support which the US and NATO must provide before things go out of control. But on controversial drone attacks, the government must tell the truth to its own people. No more betraying of their trust. The writer is a former foreign secretary