Another Nato attack against two Pakistani check posts in Mohmand Agency in the early hours of last Saturday took the lives of 28 soldiers, including two officers. We have again gone through the ritual of condemnation of the attack by the political and military leadership of the country, a strong protest by the government with the US and Nato, and the expression of regrets together with the promise of investigations by the latter. The DCC after its meeting on November 26 also decided to stop the Nato supplies going to Afghanistan through Pakistan and asked the Americans to vacate the Shamsi air base within 15 days. However, going by the earlier experience of similar attacks by the Nato forces, it is likely that in due course these decisions would be reversed. The real way out of the problem lies in narrowing down and, if possible, eliminating differences between Pakistan and the US concerning their Afghanistan strategies. Until that happens, tensions between America and Pakistan will persist and so will the possibility of the US/Nato attacks on Pakistani territory/check posts. The US is currently caught in a dilemma. It wants to bring its costly adventure in Afghanistan to a close because of its internal political and economic considerations, but wants to do that on its own terms; that is to say, it wants to leave behind an Afghanistan whose political structure reflects its preferences. For the US, unfortunately, its preferences are not always in line with the tribal make up of the Afghan society, or the conservative character of its cultural traditions. Washingtons efforts to propel Afghanistan into modernity through the use of force have and will continue to face resistance from its people at large. Similarly, the US attempt to impose a government of its choice on Afghanistan in disregard of its tribal character is doomed to failure, as it has alienated most of the Pakhtuns, who constitute almost half of its population. There is little prospect of Washingtons success in overcoming these obstacles through the use of overwhelming force, as it has tried to do so far. The fundamental cause of the armed resistance, therefore, lies in USAs flawed Afghan strategy and not in any alleged support to the Afghan resistance from Pakistans tribal areas. In some ways, the US strategy in Afghanistan suffers from the same strategic mistakes, as it had committed in Iraq after its invasion in 2003. The US decisions to dissolve the Iraqi military numbering about 400,000 men and remove about 30,000 members of the Baath Party from key positions fuelled the insurgency. According to Peter Bergen, the well known expert on Al-Qaeda, these decisions created a large group of disenfranchised men willing to take up arms against the new rulers of Iraq (The Longest War, p 156). In Afghanistan, the US decision to equate the Taliban, who are mostly Pakhtuns, with Al-Qaeda disenfranchised and alienated almost half of the Afghan population, thereby, fuelling the insurgency. The Taliban have staged a successful comeback in Afghanistan not because of the alleged help from Pakistans tribal areas, but primarily because there is a large reservoir of support for them within the Pakhtun belt in the war-torn country. Hence, the US attempt to bring the Taliban on their knees through the use of force has merely succeeded in fuelling the insurgency in Afghanistan. Americas problems have been aggravated by its disregard of Afghanistans cultural traditions and conservative character. Little wonder the US forces are increasingly seen by a large segment of the Afghan population as occupation forces. The US generals, instead of recognising the flaws in their strategy and taking necessary corrective measures, are engaged in an attempt to make Pakistan a scapegoat of their policy failures. Washington has brought to bear enormous pressure on Islamabad to stop the alleged assistance to the insurgents in Afghanistan from Pakistans tribal areas. This pressure and Pakistani governments willingness to accommodate the Americans by deploying over 100,000 troops in our tribal areas have badly destabilised the country. In the process, we have suffered over 35,000 casualties of civilians and security officials, besides economic damage calculated to be over $60 billion. Our situation bears close resemblance to that of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, which was bombed by the American forces because of the so-called Ho Chi Minh trail. The net result was the destabilisation and overthrow of the Cambodian government. However, this did not save the Americans from the consequences of their flawed policy in Vietnam, leading ultimately to their ignominious withdrawal. It seems that the Americans have not drawn the appropriate lessons from their earlier experiences. As the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The US would be well advised to review its aims and strategy in Afghanistan. If it wants to leave an Afghanistan that is peaceful and stable, it will have to think in terms of a negotiated settlement involving all the important political forces in the country, including, inter alia, the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. In a county like Afghanistan, which is deeply divided on ethnic and tribal lines, the need of the hour is a coalition of various Afghan political groups to rule it. Neither the Taliban, nor the Northern Alliance alone can establish durable peace in Afghanistan. The forthcoming Bonn Conference provides a useful opportunity to initiate the process of negotiations for a political settlement. Let us hope that the international community would take advantage of this opportunity to lay down the guidelines for the badly needed process of negotiations in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, what should Pakistan do? It is necessary that our government should have a well thought out strategy for realising the objective of a sovereign and peaceful Afghanistan. Under no circumstances should we repeat the mistakes of our flawed Afghan policy of the 1990s. We should be supportive of political initiatives aimed at a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan that is free from foreign interference. We should use our influence to persuade the Taliban to join the process of negotiations. Obviously, this would need some type of ceasefire arrangement in Afghanistan to facilitate the negotiations. The Taliban must be made to understand that they alone are not in a position to rule and establish durable peace in the country. We should also effectively project to the international community our thinking on the Afghanistan situation, something that we have failed to do so far. Above all, in our interaction with the Americans, we should tell them unambiguously what we can and cannot do in connection with Afghanistan. We cannot afford to destabilise our country for the sake of the current flawed American strategy in Afghanistan, which relies primarily on the use of brute force to achieve its aims, rather than political initiatives to encourage the peace process. The Nato supplies through Pakistan should be restored only if the Americans guarantee that attacks on Pakistani territory would be scrupulously avoided in future. There is also no justification for providing any base facilities to the Americans in Pakistan. We should cooperate with the Americans in the fight against Al-Qaeda and its affiliate terrorist organisations. But under no circumstances should we become a party to the civil war in Afghanistan. Last but not the least, we should learn to conduct our foreign policy like a dignified nation by breaking the begging bowl and adopting a policy of self-reliance. Failing that, the Americans will continue to treat us like a client State and subject us to the humiliation of attacks on our territory. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: