Ten years after the Twin Towers came hurtling down, signalling the end of one era and the grim beginning of another, it is a hotly contested controversy whether the US has succeeded in its objectives after a decade of war. Ex-ISI Head, Lt Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, is of the view that the American-led forces have met their downfall in Afghanistan, and thus are packing up and withdrawing. His precise argument is that only the city of Kabul and the suburbs around are under US supported President Hamid Karzai’s control, while the rest of Afghanistan is occupied and dominated by the Taliban and other jihadi forces.

The sovereignty and trust of Pakistan violated by US commandos with unapologetic brazenness, during the raid that, reportedly, killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, still has not yet been restored. On the heels of this insult, Senator John Kerry came to Pakistan, ostensibly on a mission not to apologise. This so-called war on terror, which resembles a fox hunting exercise, has made clear to its Pakistani ‘allies’ that the US has fought not only through Pakistan, but also against Pakistan - a time-tested friend, who from the outset was generously offered a Hobson's choice option to join the war.

The US has shown remarkable subtlety and ingenuity in not declaring objectives, as openly as its adversary Al-Qaeda did. By keeping these ambiguous, the choice to change or modify them as the occasion demands is retained. However, an exercise in tracing the footprints of these shifting objectives can be conducted; starting with the speeches and statements made by responsible government spokesmen after 9/11, to the invasion of Afghanistan and then the reasons offered for the subsequent offensive against Iraq. The changes in the narrative of objectives occur at alarming points in time, the situation becomes all the more elusive when it is discovered that there was neither any link between Saddam and Osama, nor did either possess WMDs. So, why the massive step of invading both Iraq and Afghanistan - and in more and more frequently these days, why there is even talk of US troops on the ground in Pakistan.

It may be a cliché, but this does look like the new wave of imperialism. A dominant presence in this region would mean, Russia pushed further away from warm water; most of the energy resources and supply routes under US control; the routes of Chinese trade are no longer out of its reach; and, of course, the defence industry in America continues to fuel the country’s economy if its workers have new wars to supply for.

The assumption that the US is withdrawing from Afghanistan is incorrect. It has come to stay, though not through the physical presence of armed forces. The new, stronger grip could be a combination of political, economic, cultural and military ties, tactics and techniques that may include bigger roles for friendly countries.

The scenario depicts a grim picture of Pakistan’s future, because this time it hears the US knocking at its own door. In such a situation, what can Pakistan do to counter the danger of being forced into marriage with a superpower? It could try to take protection behind the matronly skirt of a Muslim block, which appears a farfetched idea under the circumstances, since the Muslim’s have never been able to develop a bloc with any real weight. However, a more realistic and workable strategy could be concentration on economic strength by an alliance with Central Asian States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Lastly and most importantly, our skewed relationship with the US must be reviewed, revitalised, and re-strengthened by removing doubt and mistrust between both our countries.

Whatever situation may emerge, the importance of Pakistan for the Americans will not be minimised. Pakistan, too, has never permanently cut ties with its allies from the days of SEATO and CENTO. The relationship compels the two countries to move hand in hand. Irrespective of big or small checks and cuts on aid, Pakistan will remain in the frontline, but must renegotiate a relationship with the US in which it feels it has entered voluntarily and then commit to it loyally. There is no other way for a relationship as old and complex as ours to be successful.

    The writer is a Lahore-based educationist.