Hillary Clinton, with her high level entourage in tow, arrived in Islamabad to bring some clarity in the fog of war. CIA Director General David Petraeus, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, and Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Mark Grossman, lent credence to her seriousness in reducing the trust deficit between the allies. Ms Clinton rightly earned the dubious title of behaving like Pakistans mother-in-law, as she warned Islamabad to conceptualise its operational plans about taking action against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan within days or weeks, rather than months or years. However, she was informed by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar that any decision to do will be taken by Parliament. Nevertheless, three aspects stand out from this particular visit. First, Secretary Clinton tried to interact with as many diverse groups as she could during her 48-hour stay in Pakistan. Second, she confirmed that Washington had no viable proof of the ISI being complicit in the attack on its Embassy in Kabul last month, thus belying Admiral Mike Mullens statement of the intelligence agency being a veritable arm of the Haqqani network. Thirdly, she endorsed Wall Street Journals report about US officials secretly meeting with the Haqqani representatives that was facilitated by the ISI. More so, while Hillary hedged questions about the stoppage of funds due to Pakistani military, she assured that Washington had no intentions of putting US military boots on the ground in Pakistan. Anyhow, the tone and tenor of the US delegation was tense and sombre, as the initial statements and body language from Kabul had depicted. But later, the ice started to melt. What transpired behind closed doors is anybodys guess However, sources privy to diplomatic parleys indicate that for once the Pakistani delegation, comprising Foreign and Finance Ministers and the army and ISI Chiefs, were in unison and minced no words in expressing their concerns to their American counterparts. They indicate that although the Pakistani leadership welcomed the process of reconciliation, yet it articulated strong reservations on various aspects, expressing that the issue of operationalisation needs more coordination. Also, the US has to make some decisions - that too in a matter of days or weeks, rather than months or years - about the process of reconciliation, determine who will do what, and what will be the sequence for reconciliation. Pakistan has made it crystal clear that the US must not insist on unrealistic timelines for achieving results or a guarantee that the outcome of reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan will yield positive results. Despite the fact that Washington has agreed with Islamabad, it will have to abandon three of its preconditions: Its insistence that the Taliban should denounce Al-Qaeda, lay down arms and spurn violence, and accept that the US tailored Afghan constitution. Pakistan is well aware of the Afghan culture and sensitivities to which the US appears to be oblivious. Arms are part of the personal attire of an Afghan, like the baseball cap is to an American. Additionally, any constitution cobbled for the Afghans by the US will remain unacceptable to the Taliban; they will accept only a constitution that is formulated by them. General Petraeus has been advocating hitting the Taliban hard by use of force and compelling them to approach the negotiation table. Indeed, this strategy is flawed. To start with, the NATO, ISAF and Afghan forces have been facing the ignominy of defeat in Afghanistan; so political strategy should be in lead and not military strategy. The US concept of establishing a strong Afghan National Army (ANA) is also based on incorrect precepts; the plan envisages an estimated expense of $6 to $8 billion annually. The weak and battered Afghan economy will be unable to sustain the outlay. Therefore, a financially viable plan should be considered with the cost not exceeding a billion dollars annually. Certainly, without an effective and operationally sound ANA, the country will slide back into anarchy and chaos sinking the entire region into deeper morass. The mist is clearing, to some extent, but Washington should not push Islamabad in a direction it is not likely to take in Afghanistan, which is to force Pakistan to crackdown on the Haqqanis, but ignoring Maulana Fazlullah in Afghanistan. The writer is a political and defence analyst. Email: sultanm.hali@gmail.com