Dear Ambassador, Your appointment has created considerable craving up here for the success of your august mission. This must be due to the following factors. First, your conspicuous credentials as a bright diplomat who has served the US creditably. With Dayton Accords you brought peace to the tortured Balkans while the EU kept fiddling as the area was burning. Second, as per the Boston Globe of Jan 26 your "portfolio, on the other hand, does not include imminent peace talks." It "is to coordinate the implementation of policies with the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department." The policies of the last Administration in the area of your concern were a hotchpotch dogged by dodgy dogmas. Your rich experience and a mature worldview backed by Secretary Clinton' pledge to restore "robust diplomacy" may hold the key to a vital breakthrough in the matter. Third, Contrary to Bush's nave/perverse perception reflected by slogans like 'you are either with us or against us', President Obama, in his inaugural address, projected the best of human/American values. Being a very bright man who is conscious of the lessons of history, he elaborated, "Our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please." Like a statesman his emphasis was on "humility and restraint." Such a fantastic framework facilitates the realization of your new objective after Dayton. Last but not he least, your own prize perception of the ground realities as reflected in your article in the Foreign Affairs Journal Sept/Oct 2008 bolsters hope. Few in the last Administration admitted that " the war enters its eighth year, Americans should be told the truth: it will last a long time- longer than the United State' longest war to date, the 14-year conflict (1961-75) in Vietnam." Given your background and your proven power of persuasion/diplomacy, I am confident you appreciate the value of history, geography, traditions and culture of a people who are a party to the dispute. Though I do not agree fully with Jonathan Power comment on the issue, I believe it is an eye-opener. He says, in his article South Asia's Triangle of Madness, "But ever since the Red Army invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and was finally defeated by the Taliban aided by America, Saudi Arabian and Indian arms and training, the intensity of the game has been ratcheted up... worsened by America's decision to go to war with its former close ally, the Taliban". He forgets the colossal sacrifices made by Pakistan in this fight but goes on to add, "It is no longer just a Great Game. It has become a Great madness." Afghanistan and FATA areas of Pakistan have remained free despite campaigns by the powerful to subdue them. Starting with Alexander's army to Mughal forces to British redcoats forcing an occupation, which ended in a disaster in the Second Afghan War launched by the Indian colonial empire, to Winston Churchill to Soviet slump in the 1980s, few military expeditions have succeeded in retaining their initial triumph against the locals. This is due to the Pashtun tradition of keeping up the fight against any occupation force till their land is freed. In this they have been vastly helped by their faith, culture of courage and topography. Accordingly when the US celebrated the installation of Karzai in 2002 after the withdrawal of the Taliban from Kabul, many people thought that the revelry was premature and could end up as star-gazing from the gutter, as Oscar Wilde had said. Sir Olaf Caroe, the last British Empire Governor of NWFP and a great authority on the region, had said that the Afghan wars seem to start once they have ended. As the Northern warlords had sided with the US in 2001, the Pashtun majority became, generally, the aggrieved party despite Karzai being one of them Subsequently as the situation deteriorated on the ground, the warlord-ism, corruption, threat of famine, insecurity etc bailed the Taliban out. The money made by the US allies through poppy cultivation etc in the North gave a cue to the Pashtuns as to how to hit out of the financial challenges. Having a much bigger cultivable area and manpower, they are now making considerable amounts for their survival. The Taliban had banned the drugs under their regime but now they use the same as one way to fight the 'occupation'. As the drugs are in great demand, there are assured gains for the suppliers in the 'sellers market'. The US/NATO blink while Taliban provide security to such operations. Last year has been the worst for the foreign forces in terms of loss of men, influence etc. Out of desperation, 'suspect' targets are heavily bombed by US drones etc in Afghanistan/ Pakistan without much regard to the killing of civilians. More often than not women and children get killed in such raids which incite the aggrieved families to seek revenge by joining the extremists. This is swelling their ranks despite protests from the concerned leaders, such killings keep on happening which damages US goodwill in a big way, the elimination of some 'undesirable' characters notwithstanding. Pakistan has deployed a 100,000 troops to stem the rot. However, the Taliban surge in Afghanistan has emboldened their allies in Pakistan to launch daring attacks against all kinds of targets. The blocking of NATO's supplyline by constantly attacking, looting and burning their goods in and around Peshawar/Khyber Pass shows the vulnerability of those involved in the fight. Press reports indicate that Russia has agreed to help. Pakistan' predicament has been aggravated by the threats following the Mumbai mayhem. In the blame-game begun by India, perhaps as an easy way-out or due to domestic compulsions, it has come out that Indian occupation of Kashmir is inciting extremism. Moreover India tolerates Hindutva groups, Abhinav Bharat, etc whose only program appears to be murderous mischief. "The threat of terror in India does not come exclusively from the outside. .... Nor is jihad the copyright of one religion alone. It can be argued that international causes apart, India has Jihadis that are fully home grown," writes Anand Patwardhan. The threat of terrorism is fueled by presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan and the Kashmir imbroglio. Newsweek italicizes "If there is a lesson to be learned in the tragic Mumbai terrorist attacks, it is the urgent need for India and Pakistan finally to begin sharing intelligence information and start coordinating antiterrorist operations together." Similarly Afghanistan and Pakistan must upgrade their operational collaboration. If these countries remain estranged with a 'cold peace' or even a cold war, the progress of terrorism can be anybody' guess. Discretion dictates a deviation from the past. A just solution must be found for Kashmir to guarantee a future of cordial relations between these 2 nuclear powers of South Asia. Such a cementing of ties would by itself undermine extremism all over. The Afghan problem can be settled with the Taliban, as suggested by George Friedman in Stratford, so that the new government in Kabul created by consensus between parties is viable. It shall be provided unqualified support by the US, Pakistan and India in pursuance of the negotiated agreement. Wishing you Godspeed The writer is a former Secretary Interior E-mail: