General David Petraeus calls the Marjah/Helmand operation, now into its second week, the opening onslaught. It is believed that by now 15 foreign troops have died, while US claims that the enemys losses are more than twice that number. The general has termed the Talibans fight back as formidable though a bit disjointed. He also warned the US public of more loss of troops in the days to come like it had been following the (so-called) troop surge in Iraq. Simultaneously, at a press briefing in London Maj Gen Gordon Messenger sounded pompous when he claimed: We expected after the enemy had time to catch its breath, they would up the level of resistance, and thats happened. In this backdrop, the foreign forces have already conceded having killed 12 innocent civilians which has also alarmed President Hamid Karzai, who fully knows the implications of such an offence for himself and others. Thus, in order to put some pressure on the enemy, the Taliban attacks came in other provinces including Kunduz in the north. Coming back to General Petraeus, he is a very well-read officer. He got recognised by his cloak and dagger tactics in punching the resistance in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq. However, his basic paradigm of equating the two war zones appears to be fallacious. First, in Iraq, the foreign forces exploited the Shia-Sunni divide to develop a make-believe peace. Now, they are facing the Pashtun majority which, despite the atrocious asymmetry a la firepower, is backed up by history, geography and a peculiar tradition of pugnacity, particularly pertaining to designs of occupation by anybody. Second, the US terms their riposte as COIN whereas the Taliban openly proclaim it to be a jihad against an 'occupation force. Just as people in the US tend to believe the administration, backed up by all kinds of vested interests, the Afghan community shares the concern of their 'own people, by and large. No wonder they are fighting since 2001 like they always do. Ask the Russians whose retreat was celebrated by the Afghans last week, wherein the war was financed by the USA. Third, the Taliban do not own even a C-130 and they are very poorly equipped in terms of weaponry, whereas the West has been using the deadliest of their armour to tame them, including depleted Uranium, like the Israelis did in Gaza with abandon. A certain source esti-mates that the US/NATO have hurled $4 billion worth of Hellfire missiles, Daisy Cutters and Bunker Busters on these poor people. They have no option but to ambush the enemy, undertake surprise raids, attacks on the supply route etc. If they have earned a compliment even from Petraeus, then their tactics are vindicated. Fourth, as on Afghan loves his/her freedom, history proves that individually and collectively they opt for a fight against any incursion on the same; more so against the foreigners, regardless of the timeline. They, generally, turned against the Taliban 'therapy and saw them bundled out in 2001. As such the current stay of the foreign forces is being projected by the Taliban to be an 'occupation with the complicity of Karzai and northern warlords. Naturally, massive disenchantment with the US is setting in due to the inherent weaknesses of the status quo which appear to be beyond redemption. Despite the atrocities like indiscriminate use of firepower, which the other party is devoid of, the Taliban tower above the foreign forces that carry an emotional appeal for the Pashtun particularly. The US appears to have missed the bus. In 2002, the Bonn Conference created considerable goodwill for the media hype about a reconstruction programme to be launched for the rehabilitation of the devastated country. However, what followed fomented a fulsome nightmare, with Karzai to blame by the US. The corruption, by all and sundry including foreign contractors, as per the UN, created a disorder wherein insecurity, unemployment, corruption, and absence of justice has prevailed. It is irritating for an Afghan to see that even Karzais security is guaranteed by a US contingent, while he is obliged to stay within the 'palace. Accordingly, he has been berated as the 'mayor of Kabul. The foreign troops, either due to the arrogance of power or ingrained incremental ignorance, have started to (what Shakespeare calls), see more devils than the vast hell can behold. In the last nine years, they have killed a big number of civilians, including women and children, which would be considered as 'war crime, except when committed by the US and its protg, Israel. The UN may lack the courage to react but, as per the Afghan tradition, the murder has to be avenged by the survivors. Just by indulging in imprudent tactics, the foreign troops are inciting the ordinary people to join the Taliban; only to take revenge for the killing of their loved ones to honour a hoary tradition. The latest howler of the type occurred over the weekend in Uruzgan, a province of the Hazaras who are anti-Taliban, whereby 30 civilians were killed by an air strike. General McChrystal apologised in a statement as did the Dutch troops whose beat it is. Karzai also denounced it in strong terms realising its implications for himself and all. President Barack Obama is obviously more concerned about voters in the US than anything else. The rightwing have been denouncing him, on all pretexts, lately to mislead the public in the forthcoming elections. The Massachusetts win by them of Senator Ted Kennedys seat appears to have made them more raucous. Moreover, the way the Israelis flaunt their belligerence against the administration is insulting. As if the atrocities in Gaza and blocking of the dialogue were not enough, the Nazi-like murder in Dubai has set off a new alarm. Pakistan has been actively helping in the new US strategy. The cost for it is rising, as is indicated by the latest bombing incidents in Swat/Chilas. As per a Pashto proverb reads: God is in the Heavens and we will be around while the foreigners go away. At the same time, the regional countries will have to realise that they must pool their resources to find a local solution, as even the US power appears to be giving a stalemate in nine years. China and India must assist Pakistan in developing a safe 'roundabout of the world. We have already paid a heavy price in the last 30 years due to the old game rejuvenated by the US/Soviet Empire of yore. The US has varied interests but it too cannot walk away The writer is a former secretary interior.