President Obama has announced the draw down schedule of American troops from Afghanistan. Eighteen months ago, he was misled by his generals into a massive troop surge that he personally did not fully support. He has now reshuffled his war and diplomatic teams to lead the path of de-escalation. However, America and its ISAF/NATO paraphernalia appears as bewildered and clueless about the end objectives as they were 10 years and billions of dollars earlier. Meanwhile, Afghanistans neighbouring states are fearful of the negative fallout of US/NATO troop withdrawal and suspect that it may be similar to the post-Soviet withdrawal era. Although several initiatives are being taken at the international level specifically focusing on the Afghan conflict, yet, unfortunately, all of them are missing a basic ingredient - the role of the six countries that have common borders with Afghanistan. The United Nations Security Council has voted (resolutions 1988 and1989) to split a sanctions blacklist for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda (mandated under resolution 1267) to encourage the Taliban to join reconciliation in Afghanistan; this distinction has long been argued by independent analysts. Yet it is, indeed, a long way from late Richard Holbrookes rhetoric that only good Taliban are dead Taliban. The bifurcation of the two entities is yet another major American retreat, since Secretary of State Hillary Clintons speech to the Asia Society last February in which longstanding American preconditions to talks with the Taliban were reconfigured as end objectives. Washingtons strategic failure is not that its military component in Afghanistan has failed; this has been a foregone conclusion by several security analysts since 2002, when America pushed the militants to the bordering countries. The real fiasco is that structures and institutions essential for incrementally squeezing the space from insurgency have failed to evolve. Even where there have been nominal military successes, a quandary haunts as to the viability of sustainable security sans overwhelming American firepower and manpower. The Afghan government simply does not have the capacity or capability to hold a fragile country on its own. Ultimately, the Americans are poised to hand over Afghanistan to almost the same forces from whom they snatched it a decade ago, and in an almost same status. Last week, President Hamid Karzai acknowledged for the first time that Afghanistan and the United States are engaged in peace talks with the Taliban. Though substantive negotiations are going on for over a year and are at a fairly advanced stage, America has underplayed it by saying that contacts are at the initial evaluation stage. In these circumstances, the credit goes to the visionary approach of the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, who foresaw the importance of regional dynamics towards peace and stability in Afghanistan way back in 1997, to mitigate the ill effects of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan which were, by then, beginning to threaten the stability of the entire region. At that time, the collapse of the Soviet Union had triggered a number of conflicts in Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, and instability in Afghanistan was reinforcing the conflicts throughout Central Asia and beyond. To provide structural and institutional support, '6+2 initiative was launched by Uzbekistan in 1999 involving six bordering counties of Afghanistan, besides the US and Russia. Other five immediate neighbours of Afghanistan viz Pakistan, Iran, China, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan enthusiastically supported the initiative. In 1999 and 2000, two rounds of peace talks were held in Tashkent, under the patronage of the UN, between representatives of the Taliban and Northern Alliance of Afghanistan. So the six neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, along with the US and Russia, opted to become the guarantors of the peace process between rival factions of Afghanistan. This process was well on its way to conclude a comprehensive agreement, but, unfortunately, was interrupted by post 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan by foreign troops. Moving forward, President Karimov proposed a variant of his previous concept to resolve the current impasse on Afghanistan during the 2008 Bucharest Summit: Since we are speaking about establishing the stability in Afghanistan, along with providing the living needs of the Afghan people by using the possibilities of international assistance, it was expedient to resume the negotiation process on achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan in the framework of contact group '6+2, which effectively operated during 1997-2001 with the support of the United Nations. He proposed to transform the '6+2 contact group into '6+3 by including NATO; he also spoke about the proposal at the UN General Assemblys 65th meeting in 2010. We need to evaluate this proposal, in the context of the success of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The SCO started off as a humble entity, created by China to enlist neighbouring states cooperation in maintaining stability in its turbulent Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan agreed to work with Beijing to prevent the cross-border population of ethnic Uighurs from mobilising to challenge the Chinese rule. In turn, they gained Chinas cooperation in opposing their own separatist movements. Over the years, the SCO has developed an interesting infrastructure for security cooperation. Its military and law enforcement related military drills have become a regular event. Cooperation is not confined to terrorism alone; a number of organisational agreements require member states to target separatists and extremists as well. SCO states are under the obligation to honour each others blacklist of individuals and organisations accused of terrorism, separatism or extremism. A Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent operates a sophisticated shared intelligence database accessible to all member states. SCO member states have agreed to extradite, and prevent the granting of refugee status to the individuals who are flagged by any member state as a terrorist threat. Uzbekistans '6+3 initiative needs to be transposed on SCOs practical experience to evolve appropriate structures and institutions to suit Afghanistans local conditions. Generally, there is absolute consensus on the composition of '6, but the '+3 factor needs careful scrutiny. Due to dubious strategy and ambiguous objectives, America has lost its credibility as an honest underwriter of peace in Afghanistan as well as in Asia. Russias recent military intervention in Afghanistan, on the pretext of anti-narcotics operation, drew a rage from the Afghans, who considered it as a litmus test by Russia on USAs behest to explore the possibility of filling of post-American void in Afghanistan. Moreover, NATO is perceived as an extension of the US military power; hence, its membership will only enhance the American clout in the '6+3 setup. Furthermore, Afghanistan needs to be associated with the process. Meanwhile, Russia and America may be invited to join the initiative as observers. It would be worthwhile to revise the '+3 component to comprise Afghanistan, the UN and OIC. Key groups of Taliban may be invited as observers. America may be asked to expedite its withdrawal and the security void may be filled by a UN peace mission composed of contingents drawn from the OIC member states, excluding the '6 and other neighbouring countries of Afghanistan. The '6+3 should find out the causes that have led to frequent foreign interventions in Afghanistan and recommend measures to avoid recurrence; such measures should be implemented through the UNSC resolution under chapter VII of the UN charter. n The writer is a retired Air Commodore of the Pakistan Air Force. Email: