Last week Admiral Michael Mullen made rather blunt remarks in Islamabad that ISIs continued links with the Haqqani network were at the core of Pakistans problematic relations with the US. The ISI has a rich history of how they operated in this part of the world, to protect their own countryThe Haqqani network had fuelled the Afghan insurgency by supporting, training and funding fighters, who were killing the American and coalition troops in Afghanistan, said the Admiral. Jockeying between the conflicting strategies of simultaneously wooing and weakening the Haqqani network, the Admiral is often fatigued enough to relapse into the Bush era strategic environment. The dynamics of the Afghan conflict have moved to new planes; it is an open secret that the Admirals boys had been intimately negotiating with the Haqqanis, both with and without ISIs facilitation. Likewise, the recently released biannual report of the White House to Congress on Pakistan and Afghanistan, has cast critical aspersions on Pakistan, both in the domain of governance and counterinsurgency operations. This report is an indictment on Pakistan, and it accepts no responsibility about the deliberate ambiguities in the American policies towards Afghanistan and Pakistan. White House is of the view that there remains no clear path to defeating the insurgency in Pakistan, despite the unprecedented and sustained deployment of over 147,000 forces." The latest phase of the Mohmand Agency operations, which concluded in March, has been cited as an example of Pakistans inability to hold and build areas cleared of the militants. The fact that 50,000 internally displaced persons have been able to return to their homes in the Agency, as a result of Operation Brekhna, finds no appreciation. In fact, Pakistans political and military leadership have been assessed harshly. America expects Pakistan to perform a feat single-handed, which the Americans could not accomplish with the military might of over 40 countries at their disposal. Americas policy of measured vagueness, in the context of troops pullout from Afghanistan, has begun to haunt it; indeed, the bluff has been called. Though tempo of the events in Libya has eclipsed the Afghan issue, it will soon reoccupy the centrestage. The Libyan conflict cannot be resolved in line with the American blueprints without inducting a large number of land forces into the North African theatre; and such numbers would only be available if and when the troops could be de-inducted from Afghanistan and Iraq. Though Defence Secretary Robert Gates had told a recent West Point audience that any future Defence Secretary, who advices the President to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined, he may already be busy in a number crunching exercises; the challenges of extricating over 100,000 American troops from Afghanistan without a clear victory are indeed phenomenal. Surely, the morale of the American troops is marred by fatigue, homesickness and mental disorders. The suicide rate among the American soldiers is on the rise; there were 252 cases in 2010. This trend is linked to drug abuse, brain injuries, depression and back home worries. Apart from the numerous cases of indiscipline in Iraq and Afghanistan, several cases of shootings within military establishments have also occurred inside US mainland. Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai has announced the start of the transition process in Afghanistan. Going by the numbers, recruitment of the Afghan security forces is expected to achieve its target figure of around 300,000 personnel by coming October. However, the infiltration of security forces by the Taliban is out of the ordinary. There have been a number of cases of the Afghan security personnel killing foreign soldiers. Earlier this month, two American soldiers on a training mission were killed by a policeman. Representation of Pashtuns in the security forces remains a challenge. Only 3.7 percent of the recruited Pashtuns are from south Afghanistan against a target figure of 10 percent. Tajiks are overrepresented in the Afghan National Army by about 8 percent and by more than 15 percent in the police. With these compositional and psychological issues at hand, the Afghan security forces represent a ticking bomb. But the reconstitution of the upgraded 'Peace Commission radiates a ray of hope. President Karzai has announced that the Commission also enjoyed US support. However, track record of such efforts is not quite enviable. Moreover, any concept or terminology that originates from America is not likely to sell well amongst the masses of Afghanistan. Any solution that is not owned and led by the Afghans is destined to doom. Turkey has since long been sincerely trying to play its role to sort out the Afghanistan problem. For this purpose, it has hosted several rounds of talks between the Pakistani and Afghan leadership. The Turkish initiative of allowing Taliban to set up their liaison office in Ankara is a positive development. This would bring various factions of the Taliban closer to each other, and existence of a formal office would give legitimacy to an otherwise established reality of the political clout of Taliban. It would be appropriate if other countries as well as OIC, NAM, SAARC and the UN also allow such representation to the Taliban. However, once again the fundamental error is exclusion of Iran from this process. Truly sustainable peace cannot be achieved in Afghanistan without taking Iran on board. If anything could restore normalcy in todays troubled Afghanistan, it is a comprehensive national reconciliation in which the Afghans have a stake. Fast emerging unfavourable security situation has compelled the US to negotiate with the Taliban for a political settlement. Strenuous efforts (read machinations) are being made by the US to win over the Taliban. Initially, these contacts were made secretly with India, as behind the door facilitator. Later on, secrecy had to be abandoned when the US as well as President Karzai concluded that without Pakistans active participation no headway could be made. The mainstream Taliban entities are still united under Mullah Omar and have rejected USAs preconditions. They are aware that the US is no longer in a position to call the shots. Despite two troop surges the balance remains tilted in favour of the Taliban; they cannot be split up. They are convinced that they have already won the war, and the countdown has started. Hence, they are in no mood to compromise on the US terms. For them, it is now like a wounded animal that has transformed from a hunter into a hunted prey. There are indications that the Americans are planning to stay up to 2024 in Afghanistan. President Karzai has recently stated that America intends to establish permanent military bases in Afghanistan. The US has for long been eyeing on Kabul, Bagram, Kandahar, Shindad and Herat, as its military bases. These places are being speedily fortified and modernised. However, resurgence of the Taliban, war weariness, haywire economy, and uprisings in Middle East and Africa are compelling America to call it a day. Though the Lisbon Summit extended the tenure of this dead-ended war till 2014, a speedy withdrawal may be in the offing. The writer is a retired Air Commodore of the Pakistan Air Force. Email: