General Mirza Aslam Beg In the third world countries, like Pakistan, when the leaders find the going tough on the domestic front, they turn towards foreign policy pursuits ultimately losing at both ends. This is precisely the case with President Barack Obama. The domestic problems are multiplying, while the government is continuously favouring the elite and ignoring the masses. However, Obama has tried to stimulate the American economy by buying treasury bonds through quantitative easing, but it has resulted in a political backlash. He is no doubt following a risky monetary strategy, which is leading to a high rate of unemployment and multiplying the number of shelterless people; healthcare reforms are the only silver lining around the dark economic clouds. Similarly, foreign policy is drifting into error, because Washington has yet not realised the great setback it has suffered at the hands of the Afghans, in its 'New Great Game in Eurasia. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the US decided to extend its global primacy and preeminence into the Eurasian region under the mistaken belief that the 21st century belonged to it, as the dominant global power. The 'New Great Game, thus focused on containing and curbing the forces the US considered a threat to its global ambitions. First of all, Washington betrayed the Afghan mujahideen, who had won the war for it against the Soviets, and in return it induced a civil war because a radical Islamic government in Afghanistan was considered as a threat to its interests. Then hastily, the US took on the Iraqis in 1991, who had emerged stronger after the Iran-Iraq war, destroying the bulk of their armed forces. Later, it turned towards Somalia and encouraged its neighbours to invade the country and finally brought about a regime change. While the 'New Great Game was being implemented, the 9/11 attack filled the American hearts with revenge. Afghanistan was invaded and occupied, because it had committed the unforgivable sin of sheltering Osama, whom, reportedly, the Americans themselves had funded and supported against the Soviets. After consolidating their hold over Afghanistan, Iraq was invaded on the pretext that Saddam had developed atomic weapons. As the consolidation process continued in Afghanistan and Iraq, the European Union extended its membership into Eastern Europe and jointly brought about pro-West revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrghyzia. Thereafter, Afghanistan was unilaterally declared as part of South Asia, while India was assigned a role there under its strategic partnership with the US, with explicitly declared objectives - to curb and contain the rising threat of Islamic extremism in the region, and the rising economic and military power of China. In the implementation of this strategy, the US and its allies miserably failed because they did not recognise the power of Islamic resistance, and eventually suffered a humiliating defeat. Thanks to the 'war on terror, which became the catalyst for the spread of the Islamic resistance from Afghanistan to Iraq, and in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Kashmir and Palestine. Anyway, Obamas recent visit to India and the joint declaration by the leaders reflects a total disregard for the emerging ground realities. The Taliban have indeed won the war, as Mullah Omer, in March 2002, had stated: We have resolved to fight and fight till we were free to take our decisions in a free environment. The Afghan nation will not follow the American agenda, as it is not in harmony with our national ethos and traditions. We will fight till the occupation forces vacate our land. We are a free people and know how to win our freedom. True to his resolve, Mullah Omer stands firm on his commitment, as he pronounced recently: The moment of defeat of the invaders has arrived due to the great sacrifices of the mujahideen. We will continue with our strategy to engage the enemy in an exhausting war of attrition and wear them out like the former Soviet Union. The more the war prolongs, the greater will be the enemys suffering. There is no denying the fact that the Taliban have won the Afghan war against the occupation forces. In an asymmetric war, there is no clear-cut line of victory and defeat, yet the Soviets had prudently accepted their defeat in 1989 and the Afghan mujahideen in good grace allowed them to withdraw, unscathed. Whereas the US and its allies find it much too painful to admit defeat, so aptly described by Eric S. Margolis: NATO, the worlds most powerful military alliance, maybe losing the only war the 61 years old pact ever fought.are being beaten by the lightly-armed Afghan farmers and mountain tribesmen. The recent NATO declaration at Lisbon, nevertheless, betrays their wounded pride; shrouded in confusion it states: We plan to end our combined role by 2014, or earlier, with 'shallow troops withdrawal, starting next year and eventually accelerated. In fact, the declaration aims at inducing a civil war in Afghanistan, by handing over power to the Northern Alliance supported by 150,000 soldiers and 100,000 police personnel, which is dominated by ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. Thus, Afghanistan will remain destabilised and accelerate the spread of Talibanisation in South Asia and beyond. Despite such a short-sighted approach, there is still time to engage in 'negative symmetry, i.e. getting all regional forces, including India, to lay off Afghanistan, as the only chance for enduring peace. The problem gets even more complex when the occupation forces look east and see China, as a rising power and threat to their ambitions in the region. Chinas rise is a patent reality. Unlike the former Soviet Union, China has no aggressive designs. In contrast, it has chosen to enter the global order, maintaining cooperative relations, with all nations. The purpose of the Indo-US partnership, therefore, is to create a Cold War style anti-Chinese military alliance, which will prove detrimental to peace in the region. So, Obamas foreign policy is out-of-step with reality, as his domestic policy. If he is seeking jobs for the American people, then his visit to Asia was not the right choice, as Farid Zakria rightly points out: He should have travelled to Canada and Mexico, instead, which together buy 20 times as much American goods and services as does India and 10 times as many as does South Korea. His current approach, therefore, is at a critical point. Sagacity demands a pragmatic strategy and a new vision to mark the start of a clear-eyed assessment, to steadily drawdown the forces from Afghanistan. This could be possible, only after reaching a clear understanding with the Taliban; otherwise the exit will become horrendous. In 1989, Pakistan enjoyed a degree of clout with the mujahideen to let the Soviets withdraw, unscathed. Unfortunately, now Pakistan has lost that privilege, and the Taliban are the only arbiters. In this respect, the US policymakers should listen to the logic of the task force of the US Senate, headed by Richard Armitage, who recommends: There is the need for a real national reconciliation process, for constitutional reforms and other political initiatives to end the conflict in Afghanistan. The US is a country in decline with a weakened political, economic and military system and that is a challenge for Obama - to switch course and relaunch himself in pursuit of what he told his supporters: I spent my whole life, chasing the American dream. It is his job now to find common ground with the Republicans, to move the country forward, and get things done for the American people. He has to make time for a clear, compassionate and consistent communication with the people at home and abroad, particularly those who have suffered as a result of Americas pursuit of the elusive goal of global primacy and preeminence. The days of colonial imperialism have given way to deeper human sensibility of shared values of the global community. Obama must heed Horace: Force, if unassisted by judgment, collapses through its own mass. The writer is a former chief of army staff, Pakistan. Email: