It was perhaps symptomatic that when Pakistan and the USA saw a decline in relations to the point that America cut-off aid to Pakistans military, it was the DG ISI who went to Washington, not the President, PM or any member of the Cabinet, or even any other military officer. The first fruit of that visit was not the resumption of aid, but the granting of visas to CIA personnel. Though the DG ISI making the visit was a serving Lieutenant-General, and thus a person the army was willing to trust, and though the relationship with the USA was souring because of the ISI, because of first the Raymond Davis affair, which made apparent that all was not well between the CIA and the ISI, and then the Abbottabad raid, which not only killed Osama bin Laden, but made it seem that the defence of the Republic was in hands that had let through American helicopters. The USA by the last had denied something it had itself used in the past: The militarys right to rule. There was a plea of superior US technology, but the underlying cause was once again emphasised after the agency heads met, and that was the US vision of the post-withdrawal region, which is one of regional hegemony for India, through which other countries in the region will have to answer. To further drive home this point, it seems that as soon as General Pasha left Washington, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai was picked up by the FBI, for illegally lobbying for Pakistan, and for receiving money from the ISI. This was not the first time the ISI had been targeted, within the greater target of Pakistan, but it was the first time that the US had taken action against it. There have been so many accusations in the media, and for so long, that the ISI was backing the anti-American fighters in Afghanistan, that it had been assumed as true, with the reluctance of the army to move into Waziristan not being seen in the American media as a reluctance to engage their own citizens in a difficult terrain, but as a refusal to deal with the Haqqani network. Again, the cause is supposed to be Kashmir. The ISIs ties with militants are not only because it wishes to retain influence in Afghanistan, but also to use the Afghan mujahideen in Kashmir. There are a number of problems with this view. The first is the failure to recognise that the Indian occupation of Kashmir is brutal and repressive, and that the resistance to it is indigenous, not terrorism exported by Pakistan. The second is that it also assumes that Pakistan should fight the whole war on terror, not just the portion that is against the Pakistani state. The USA is attempting to construct the argument that the fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda is not just about American lives, but also about stopping terrorist acts which involve the citizens of other countries. This has met a vigorous response by the militants, who view Pakistani government as bad as Americans, and as liable to attack, those who assist US forces, or any of their assistants. Thus, the militants make the justification of attacks on Pakistani forces, Pakistani installations and the Pakistani government. Though the militants are not at all well equipped, their ability to fight the American and other NATO forces has meant that the return of the occupation forces from Afghanistan has become more of a retreat, rather than a triumphal procession back home. Perhaps, more significant has been the need to come back at all. The USAs neo-colonialism was defeated in Vietnam, but it appears that it is in Afghanistan that it may have been contained. General Pashas visit was part of the endgame for this, but unlike the USA, which can withdraw largely or even completely, Pakistan will continue to have Afghanistan as a neighbour, as well as home to the majority of the Pashtuns, who constitute one of its own nationalities. Thus, the General represents a government which must plan ahead of the US withdrawal, and cannot regard that withdrawal as closing a chapter, as the USA can. While Washington moves round the pieces on the chessboard and contemplates the pluses and minuses of various positions, Islamabad must prepare itself to remain in the region. The option of withdrawal, while very real and understandably fiercely debated in the USA, does not exist for Pakistan. The USAs trajectory has been spectacularly speedy. In just two centuries, it has moved from colony to an imperial power. In being a former colony itself, America has moved swiftly to imperialist has-been, and also has no ideology to justify its own imperialist sway. It might use 'free markets and 'democracy to justify its version of capitalism, red in tooth and claw, but there is no detailed ideology. It has barely had the time to deal with its new imperial status before it has had to deal with handling the post-imperial phase. It should be noted that the imperialist ideology the USA had was actually the post-imperialist ideology the European powers had evolved. This deliberately left their corporations to form post-imperial alliances and become transnational corporations. Thus, around the time that Europe turned its colonies into fellow nation-states, it also left its corporations to jump into the next form of political organisation. This became the ideology of the new American imperialism, which was neo-imperialism rather than classical, in that the purpose of political domination was, as before, to allow corporations to keep on pursuing profits, but the employment provided to the middle class was missing. Pakistan was actually one of the American success stories, because it was weaned away from the UK, whose colony it had been; it followed American democracy, with occasional outbursts of military rule imposed by the officers duly trained in British or American institutions, with a ruling class (not just politicians) that did its best to curry American favour, to the extent that the COAS was given an extension amounting to a second term on the recommendation of the US Secretary of State. However, the army has not abandoned its determination to keep out of the settlement of Kashmir that may well be contemplated as part of the US drive to make India a strong regional representative, as well as a regional counterweight against China. Pakistans government is not giving up on the US relationship, not so much because it is important as because it believes that Washingtons favour will ensure its survival. The US decline might occur, but it will not stop its writ running in Pakistan, until it is replaced by another foreign countrys writ. America is also not giving up on the relationship, mostly because it needs it not just for the war on terror, but also for the purposes behind it. However, at this juncture, the USA wishes to drive a wedge between the people and the armed forces. Without this, the goal of preventing Pakistan from aligning closely with China will not be achieved, and the honourable exit the USA wants from Afghanistan will not be possible. It can be debated whether the wish for an honourable exit is valid or not, but it should not be assumed that the USA will not try. Under such circumstances, Pakistan would do best to get out of a relationship which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has shown the USA places below India. It is not too much to assume that Washington has already decided against Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, which might explain why Dr Fais arrest was made to coincide with the visits, of General Pasha to Washington and Secretary Clinton to India. n The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as Executive Editor of The Nation. Email: