President Hamid Karzai's recent visit to the United States had many interesting aspects. It is refreshing that the flurry of frustration which the Afghan President had expressed about the Americans, a couple of weeks prior to his visit and the bad taste that ensued, are a thing of the past. During this visit, there has been a realignment of strategic objectives as indeed the refinement of strategy to achieve these shared objectives. Pakistan's role has been acknowledged as of pivotal importance for any future settlement in Afghanistan. Presumably, the US-Afghan differences on Kandhar military operations have not been completely bridged, but these appear to have been narrowed down. As a follow up, some of the objectives of the recent visit of US National Security Adviser General James Jones and CIA director Leon Panetta to Pakistan were to take it (Pakistan) onboard, on what all transpired during the Afghan President's visit to America and to negotiate tying up of loose ends in Pakistan. Besides, the need for better sharing of intelligence information, in the context of the failed bombing incident in Time Square, as well as in the overall context of the ongoing COIN operations, must have also not escaped the agenda. After the fizzle of Marjah operations, the activity in Kandhar is likely to be another face-saving venture. If the Helmand military operation is to be a template for Kandhar, then there would not be much of fighting and ceremonial entry would be made duly over-projected by the US media for domestic consumption. Under the media focus, dollars will exchange hands in line with the golden surrender theme of the current US COIN strategy. A good number of professional dollar receiving people have travelled from Marjah to Kandhar to receive the next tranche. This would be followed by quietly re-handing over of the administration of Kandhar to current managers of the area. No fighting, no body bags, hence no fuss. Kandhar would have been conquered for domestic consumption; and surrendered yet once again to the thugs. Nevertheless, Pakistan would feel the push for heightening of military activity in North Waziristan; hopefully the demand would stop short of a bulldozer type of operation. There are indicators that ISAF and NATO forces have started abandoning the check posts bordering Pakistan, in a run up, to anticipate military operations like activity during which militants operating in Kandhar would be afforded safe and sure exit towards North Waziristan. An ineffective aerial surveillance system has been provided by the US to the Afghan security forces to secure Spin Boldak border ahead of Kandhar operations. Configuration indicates that a 'Persistent Surveillance System', which comprises of an aerostat with mounted camera equipment, is not suitable for the kind of terrain in Spin Boldak area. Pakistan should therefore brace up for yet another spate of terrorist activities in its heartland. Pakistan's military leadership has been legitimately resisting a full-fledged operation in North Waziristan due paucity of resources. Not much has changed, as arrears of the withheld CSF Support Fund have only been partially released. Likewise, two Bell Helos are not adequate enough for conducting operations in North Waziristan. All stakeholders need to realise that the final solution to Afghan fiasco lies beyond these gimmicks. The time for a military dominated strategy ran out a long while ago. The strategy to weaken the cadres of Taliban militarily and then to engage middle level Taliban leadership, while bypassing the top leadership, has already backfired. Keeping in view Afghan psyche, losses by the Taliban would reinforce their resolve to uproot the occupation forces. Moreover, Afghan tradition of deference towards elders and seniors would inhibit any significant number of mid-level Taliban leaders, opting to break away from the mainstream hierarchy. Therefore, clear departures have to be made from current fixations. Out of the box solutions need to be thought-out and implemented. Overall finale must embody a win-win situation for the Americans, as well as the Afghans. Any solution should be endorsed by the people of Afghanistan through their fair and free participation in the process. There is a need to correct the fundamental distortions eroding the overall operational framework of the COIN strategy. Further intensification of error of commitment would perpetuate a deadlock. The Afghan resistance to any solution that appears to come as dictation would continue to rise. Hopefully, after Karzai's current interactions with the American administration, the Afghan President would have requisite strategic space to carry forth the national reintegration and reconciliation processes in a traditional Afghan way. Re-election of Karzai appears to have rekindled in him a new resolve to take his nation out of the prevalent miserable situation. Taking him on face value, based on his recent statements, he indeed has a heavy duty to discharge. His first test would be to conduct free parliamentary elections. Prior to that, he should be able to align Loya Jirga with the overall national strategy covering all vital aspects of transition management. While functioning within the constraints that be, he will have to accrue credibility by walking the talk. We, in Pakistan, wish him good luck and success. Stability in Pakistan, as well as in this region, is contingent upon enduring peace in Afghanistan. Therefore, Pakistan has always been willing to go an extra mile in helping Afghanistan to achieve a homegrown political solution of the problems which it faces today. For any initiative to be acceptable to the people of Afghanistan, UNSC and OIC should become the frontline sponsors. Prudence demands that the US should leave the centre stage, take the backseat and play the vital role of an underwriter of a stable region. Though, over the last couple of months, US and Pakistan have developed a finer level of understanding of each other's point of view, and substantial adjustments have been made to the mutual benefit of both sides, not much has changed at the battlefield level coordination. Probably, it would take a little to break the inertia. Apparently, the leadership of Afghanistan has also moved closer to Pakistan. This process of trilateral cooperation needs to strengthen further. As regards 'SITREP' from the battlefield, recent Taliban attack on Bagram airfield was quite an audacious venture. It followed on the heels of a deadly suicide attack in Kabul that killed five Americans, a Canadian colonel and 12 Afghans. This brings forth the ground reality of relentlessness in the ongoing insurgency. These incidents demonstrate that the resistance has neither lost the will, nor the resolve. Their reach is expansive and capacity is sufficient to cause lethal blows at the places and at the timings of their choosing. Ample replacements are available to substitute their casualties. Nine years long spell of insurgency operations has created a battled hardened generation of avengers. To counter them with a force having a sapping resolve, ticking the days for safe return; may indeed be a too farfetched proposition. Any future strategy to handle the situation must take these factors into account. State of denial would induce fatal errors into the strategy calculus. There is a need to seize the moment and make the right decisions. Afghanistan belongs to Afghans and only they have the right to decide their destiny. Let them decide in a free and fair way. The comity of nations should help them in achieving their chosen way of life. The writer is a retired air commodore of Pakistan Air Force. Email: