America’s Afghan War: How & When to Exit

by Maloy Krishna Dhar

(August 10, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) I wrote the essay Cancerous Pakistan’s Ambidextrous Taliban & Jihadist Policies: Threat to the subcontinent on June 25, 2010 in the context of Indo-Afghan-Iran subcontinent. More was revealed by David Coleman Headley to the USA authorities and the Indian National Investigation Agency about the roles of the ISI and elements of Pakistan army, in fact, the state of Pakistan, in planning the attack on Mumbai. P. Chidambaram had physically carried the messages to Pakistan and G. K. Pillai, Chidambaram’s Secretary merely repeated what his minister had conveyed personally to his counterpart in Pakistan. Now, the revelations made by WikiLeaks in over 90,000 documents covering the periods of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as former ISI chief and the present ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha have confirmed (in about 30,000) documents) about ISI linkages with the Taliban and its active involvement in targeting and eliminating Americans and Indians.

Truth does not suit Pakistan. Pakistan risked sabotaging the bilateral talks when the role of the ISI was pointed out by the Indian Home Secretary. Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi brushed aside all diplomatic niceties and insulted the Indian Foreign Minister by raising the ISI issue. There is nothing new in it. Z. A. Bhutto, as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan had yelled against his Indian counterpart and his daughter had also shouted against the Indian foreign minister.

The WikiLeaks documents are damaging. Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harboured strong suspicions that the ISI has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants, according to a trove of secret military field reports made public on Sunday.

The documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders. Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul.

While current and former American officials could not corroborate individual reports, they said that the portrait of the spy agency’s collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.

Some of the reports describe Pakistani intelligence working alongside al-Qaida to plan attacks. Experts cautioned that although Pakistan’s militant groups and al-Qaida work together, it may be difficult to prove such connection. Hillary Clinton recently said that some junior ISI officers are aware of location of the al Qaeda leaders.

The records also contain first hand accounts of American anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to confront insurgents who launched attacks near Pakistani border posts, moved openly by the truckload across the frontier, and retreated to Pakistani territory for safety.

The behind-the-scenes frustrations of soldiers on the ground and glimpses of what appear to be Pakistani skullduggery contrast sharply with the frequently rosy public pronouncements of Pakistan as an ally by American officials, looking to sustain a drone campaign over parts of Pakistani territory to strike at Qaida havens. Administration officials also want to keep nuclear-armed Pakistan on their side to safeguard NATO supplies flowing on routes that cross Pakistan to Afghanistan.

The reports suggest, however, that the Pakistani military has acted as both ally and enemy, as its spy agency runs what American officials have long suspected is a double game — appeasing certain American demands for cooperation while angling to exert influence in Afghanistan through many of the same insurgent networks that the Americans are fighting to eliminate.

Behind the scenes, both Bush and Obama administration officials as well as top American commanders have confronted top Pakistani military officers with accusations of ISI complicity in attacks in Afghanistan, and even presented top Pakistani officials with lists of ISI and military operatives believed to be working with militants.

Several Congressional officials said that despite repeated requests over the years for information about Pakistani support for militant groups, they usually receive vague and inconclusive briefings from the Pentagon and CIA. Nonetheless, senior lawmakers say they have no doubt that Pakistan is aiding insurgent groups. “The burden of proof is on the government of Pakistan and the ISI to show they don’t have ongoing contacts,” said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Armed Services Committee who visited Pakistan this month and said he and Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman, confronted Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, yet again over the allegations.

Such accusations are usually met with angry denials, particularly by the Pakistani military, which insists that the ISI severed its remaining ties to the Talibans years ago. An ISI spokesman in Islamabad said that the agency would have no comment until it saw the documents. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said, “The documents circulated by WikiLeaks do not reflect the current on-ground realities.”

The man, the United States has depended on for cooperation in fighting the militants and who holds most power in Pakistan, the head of the army, Gen Parvez Ashfaq Kayani, ran the ISI from 2004 to 2007, a period from which many of the reports are drawn. How can Kayani be absolved of the accusations? American officials have described Pakistan’s spy service as a rigidly hierarchical organization that has little tolerance for “rogue” activity. But Pakistani military officials give the spy service’s “S Wing”, which runs external operations against the Afghan government and India, broad autonomy, a buffer that allows top military officials deniability.

American officials have rarely uncovered definitive evidence of direct ISI involvement in a major attack. But in July 2008, the CIA’s deputy director, Stephen R Kappes, confronted Pakistani officials with evidence that the ISI helped plan the deadly suicide bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul. From the current trove, one report shows that Polish intelligence warned of a complex attack against the Indian Embassy a week before that bombing, though the attackers and their methods differed. The ISI was not named in the report warning of the attack. Another, dated August 2008, identifies a colonel in the ISI plotting with a Taliban official to assassinate President Hamid Karzai. The report says there was no information about how or when this would be carried out. The account could not be verified.

Lt Gen Hamid Gul ran the ISI from 1987 to 1989, a time when Pakistani spies and the CIA joined forces to run guns and money to Afghan militias who were battling Soviet troops in Afghanistan. After the fighting stopped, he maintained his contacts with the former Mujahedeen, who would eventually transform themselves into the Taliban. And more than two decades later, it appears that General Gul is still at work. The documents indicate that he has worked tirelessly to reactivate his old networks, employing familiar allies like Jaluluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose networks of thousands of fighters are responsible for waves of violence in Afghanistan.

For example, one intelligence report describes him meeting with a group of militants in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, in January 2009. There, he met with three senior Afghan insurgent commanders and three “older” Arab men, presumably representatives of al-Qaida, who the report suggests were important “because they had a large security contingent with them.”

The gathering was designed to hatch a plan to avenge the death of “Zamarai,” the nom de guerre of Osama al-Kini, who had been killed days earlier by a CIA drone attack. Mr Kini had directed Qaida operations in Pakistan and had spearheaded some of the group’s most devastating attacks.

The plot hatched in Wana that day, according to the report, involved driving a dark blue Mazda truck rigged with explosives from South Waziristan to Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, a route well known to be used by the insurgents to move weapons, suicide bombers and fighters from Pakistan.

In a show of strength, the Taliban leaders approved a plan to send 50 Arab and 50 Waziri fighters to Ghazni Province in Afghanistan, the report said.

General Gul urged the Taliban commanders to focus their operations inside Afghanistan in exchange for Pakistan turning “a blind eye” to their presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas. It was unclear whether the attack was ever executed.

The United States has pushed the United Nations to put General Gul on a list of international terrorists, and top American officials said they believed he was an important link between active-duty Pakistani officers and militant groups.

Senior Pakistani officials consistently deny that General Gul still works at the ISI’s behest, though several years ago, after mounting American complaints, Pakistan’s president at the time, Pervez Musharraf, was forced publicly to acknowledge the possibility that former ISI officials were assisting the Afghan insurgency. Despite his denials, General Gul keeps close ties to his former employers.

The reports also chronicle efforts by ISI officers to run the networks of suicide bombers that emerged as a sudden, terrible force in Afghanistan in 2006. The detailed reports indicate that American officials had a relatively clear understanding of how the suicide networks presumably functioned, even if some of the threats did not materialize. It is impossible to know why the attacks never came off — either they were thwarted, the attackers shifted targets, or the reports were deliberately planted as Taliban disinformation.

One report, from Dec 18, 2006, describes a cyclical process to develop the suicide bombers. First, the suicide attacker is recruited and trained in Pakistan. Then, reconnaissance and operational planning gets underway, including scouting to find a place for “hosting” the suicide bomber near the target before carrying out the attack. The network, it says, receives help from the Afghan police and the Ministry of Interior.

Several of the reports describe current and former ISI operatives, including General Gul, visiting madrasas near the city of Peshawar, a gateway to the tribal areas, to recruit new fodder for suicide bombings.

One report, labeled a “real threat warning” because of its detail and the reliability of its source, described how commanders of Mr. Hekmatyar’s insurgent group, Hezb-i-Islami, ordered the delivery of a suicide bomber from the Hashimiye madrasa, run by Afghans.

The boy was to be used in an attack on American or NATO vehicles in Kabul during the Muslim Festival of Sacrifices that opened Dec. 31, 2006. According to the report, the boy was taken to the Afghan city of Jalalabad to buy a car for the bombing, and was later brought to Kabul. It was unclear whether the attack took place.

The documents indicate that these types of activities continued throughout last year. From July to October 2009, nine threat reports detailed movements by suicide bombers from Pakistan into populated areas of Afghanistan, including Kandahar, Kunduz and Kabul.

Some of the bombers were sent to disrupt Afghanistan’s presidential elections, held last August. In other instances, American intelligence learned that the Haqqani network sent bombers at the ISI’s behest to strike Indian officials, development workers and engineers in Afghanistan. Other plots were aimed at the Afghan government.

But the reports also charge that the ISI directly helped organize Taliban offensives at key junctures of the war. On June 19, 2006, ISI operatives allegedly met with the Taliban leaders in Quetta, the city in southern Pakistan where American and other Western officials have long believed top Taliban leaders have been given refuge by the Pakistani authorities. At the meeting, according to the report, they pressed the Taliban to mount attacks on Maruf, a district of Kandahar that lies along the Pakistani border.

The planned offensive would be carried out primarily by Arabs and Pakistanis, the report said, and a Taliban commander, “Akhtar Mansoor,” warned that the men should be prepared for heavy losses. “The foreigners agreed to this operation and have assembled 20 4×4 trucks to carry the fighters into areas in question,” it said.

While the specifics about the foreign fighters and the ISI are difficult to verify, the Taliban did indeed mount an offensive to seize control in Maruf in 2006. Afghan government officials and Taliban fighters have widely acknowledged that the offensive was led by the Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was then the Taliban shadow governor of Kandahar.

The flood of reports of Pakistani complicity in the insurgency has at times led to barely disguised tensions between American and Pakistani officers on the ground. Meetings at border outposts set up to develop common strategies to seal the frontier and disrupt Taliban movements reveal deep distrust among the Americans of their Pakistani counterparts. Nothing happened, wrote Col Barry Shapiro, an American military liaison officer with experience in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, after an Oct. 13, 2006, meeting. “Despite the number of reports and information detailing the concerns,” Colonel Shapiro wrote, “we continue to see no change in the cross-border activity and continue to see little to no initiative along the PAK border” by Pakistan troops. The Pakistani Army “will only react when asked to do so by US forces,” he concluded. Some materials about contents of the WikiLeaks documents have been borrowed from the article ‘Pakistan aids insurgency in Afghanistan, reports assert’ by Mark Mazzetti, Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt and Andrew W Lehren, New York Times, Jul 26, 2010.

The WikiLeaks papers had not fallen on the Americans like the Pentagon paper leaks of 1971 that unbarred the ugly war of America in Vietnam and the lies the White House was telling to the Americans. But it has again proved to the American people that their country is involved in an infructuous war and their money is going down the drain to the pockets of the generals in Pakistan and the Talibans. As Frank Rich says in his article in New York Times (Kiss the War Goodbye Aug 2, 2010), “Obama was right to say that the leaked documents “don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate in Afghanistan,” but that doesn’t mean the debate was resolved in favor of his policy. Americans know that our counterinsurgency partner, Hamid Karzai, is untrustworthy. They know that the terrorists out to attack us are more likely to be found in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia than Afghanistan. And they are starting to focus on the morbid reality, highlighted in the logs, of the de facto money-laundering scheme that siphons American taxpayers’ money through the Pakistan government to the Taliban, who then disperse it to kill Americans.”

Pakistan has officially protested against the documents and certain elements have even organized protests against British Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement about Pakistan’s diabolical involvement against Indian security. The suave Pakistani ambassador in Washington Mr. Haqqani has tried his best to water down the leakage by saying that most of the documents are old, not verifiable and their sources are doubtful. Obama administration has just started soul searching about the source of the leakage and there appears to be hardly any coordination between the White House, the Congress/Senate, Pentagon, the NSA and the CIA. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her latest visit gifted 500 million dollars to Pakistan as additional incentive. It appears that the Secretary of State, the President, the Pentagon and the CIA are working at cross-purposes. Both Pakistan and the USA are preparing for the next strategic discussions by the fourth quarter of this year. Yet there is no indication in Washington, in the light of WikiLeaks documents, what the USA intends to do with its Pakistan policy vis a vis its war in Afghanistan. Will it allow Pakistan army and the ISI to play the Haqqani, Omar and Hekmatyar groups against American and NATO forces; help the Talibans to blow up NATO supply convoys, plant roadside bombs and target kill American soldiers? Or Will the different power centre’s of the USA unite (Pentagon especially) and give loud messages to Pakistan that its commitment to war against the Taliban should be total and the ISI should no more be used to play double roles there and sabotage peace in the subcontinent. In case the USA wants steady strategic relationship with India it should bring on agenda of its discussion with Pakistan the issue of Mumbai attack and ISI role in fomenting unrest in Kashmir.

Many American observers feel that Obama administration is walking on thin ropes of diplomatic jugglery, and may be compelled to adopt a fresh outlook towards Pakistan. What are the options before Barack Obama administration? On Iraq war issue President Bush had burnt his fingers and by waging war on Afghanistan (forcing Pakistan to be an ally) he had committed another blunder. Obama is forced to carry the ghost of Bush history to the logical conclusion. Two irrelevant wars have damaged US economy and there is no sign of early recovery. Obama’s dream of a new America appears to be far beyond the horizon. His popularity remains only at 40% and his chance of getting a second term does not appear to be bright. The Pakistani Establishment (the Army and the ISI) understands that the USA might walk out of Afghanistan in another two to three wars. Within these three years General Kayani (his extension period) should be able to consolidate Pakistan’s presence in Afghanistan through direct and indirect ISI involvement with the Taliban groups and create a solid space for it. The vacuum created by exit of the USA would be filled in by Pakistan and India, the biggest regional power, would have no role to play in Pakistan. The Taliban would again be used by Pakistan to accentuate Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir.

In the meantime, Pakistan has started playing a new game in Indian Kashmir. With a view to deflect global attention from Pakistani links with Taliban and ISI roles in Afghanistan, to divert attention from the charges made by David Cameron and other internal tensions between the elected government and the army the ISI has started funding certain separatist elements in J&K to whip up sustained unrest. Pakistan intends to point out to Washington, London, and other European capitals that India should be hauled up for human rights violation and the US should mediate on Kashmir issue as a precondition to Pakistan disengaging from supporting the Taliban. General Kayani and ISI chief Pasha are single mindedly pursuing this aspect and international observers believe that President Zardari may play this card during his ensuing visit to Europe.
There are certain moves to talk to ‘good Talibans.’ Pakistan wants Karzai to talk to Hekmatyar and Haqqani group of Talibans, whereas Karzai is not willing to do that. Obama administration has accepted the principle of talks but not at the cost of giving up the war. Karzai is depending on his brothers and relatives for conducting the talks and refusing to make it broad based. The Hazara, Tajik and Uzbek Afghans are not willing to talk with the Pushtuns. The USA is also not willing to talk only to Pushtun leadership. Therefore, Pakistan’s and Karzai’s initiative to start talking to Talibans are not progressing in any positive directions, though all quarters agree that reconciliation is the best way out. Obama and some of his advisors see an opportunity to get out of Afghanistan if some sort of negotiated settlement is possible. But inside his own Democratic party there are many opponents. Some elements in the Pentagon, in talks between general to general favour the idea of talk, but they are not aware of the tribal intricacies in Afghanistan and Pakistan latent strategic interest in the country.

Inside USA there are lobbies which are opposed to talks with ISI controlled Taliban groups. At a congressional hearing on July 27, David Kilcullen, a former counterinsurgency advisor, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, and Gen David H. Petraeus, who has shifted from helming the war in Iraq to the one in Afghanistan, said the Haqqani Network is acting at the behest of its Pakistani puppet masters. Ruling out US or Afghan negotiations with the Haqqani Network, Kilcullen said, “If you negotiate with the organ grinder’s monkey, you may as well negotiate with the organ grinder himself.” He explained that there was “considerable collusion” between the Haqqani Network and “elements within some parts of the security establishment in Pakistan”.

Pakistani officials deny the link still exists. In a statement, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, said the documents on WikiLeaks “do not reflect the current onground realities”. But not everyone is buying that.

What are the options? Militarily, a situation may not soon arise for the USA to run away from Afghanistan, though 58% of people expect the President to pull out by mid 2011. However, home realities may force Obama or his successor to disengage from Afghanistan after arranging some kind of international recognition of Afghanistan’s “neutral status” respected by the major powers and all regional powers like India, Iran, and Pakistan etc.

Let’s have a look at the map of Afghanistan. The whole of Afghanistan is not controlled by Karzai government or the US/NATO forces. Iran has a big say in the provinces of Nimroz, Farah, Heart and part of Balochistan; Pakistan controls Helmand, Kandahar, Qalat. Paktia, Khost, Ghazni, Gandez, Jalalabad, Asdabad etc provinces through Talibans of Mullah Omar, Hekmatyar and Haqqani groups. In Northern areas non-Pushtuns have their own militia and are generally aligned to the western forces. The Tajik, Uzbek and Turkmenistani elements have more or less good relationship with the USA and the Russians. China has a common border only with the Afghan province of Faizabad. But China’s presence in Pakistan is rather significant and China is an important member of Sanghai Cooperation Organisation, in which Central Asian Republics, Russia and China are permanent members. Amongst other nations India, Pakistan and Iran enjoy observer status and Afghanistan has the status of a guest. There cannot be any international solution of the Afghan problem without Chinese involvement and agreement. Pakistan knows that it has the tacit support of China behind its ambidextrous policies in Afghanistan and Jammu & Kashmir. In most of such security related matters China and Pakistan work in tandem.

There cannot be any solution without Iranian help as well. Iran is the only Shia nation in the world which has reckonable military power. The USA tried to use Sunni leader Saddam Hussain against Iran. Later they themselves destroyed him. Conflict between Iran and the west is not new. It started over the oil issue and now it has expanded to the contentious issue of nuclear capability of Iran. The USA is in the historic habit of looking at Iran through the Sunni Wahhabi prism of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, moderate Jordan and other allies in the Middle East. The western powers have not gone back into the history of culturally rich Persia which now desperately wants to attain geostrategic status in the Middle East. Western dalliance with Sunni powers has produced wars after wars. Should they not have a second strategic and geopolitical look at Iran?

In case the USA cannot tame the Pakistan army and neutralize the ISI, as proved by WikiLeaks documents, how long it would allow itself to be blackmailed by a country which is nuclear empowered and which has the tarnished record of nuclear proliferation? Can the entire American people agree to pay the Pakistani generals for all the time to come in the name of fighting terrorism, while the same army diverts the fund to kill the American soldiers? A vibrant democracy like America shall not allow its President, the Pentagon, the NSA and the CIA to fund Pakistan with American blood-money for getting their own children killed. The bluff has already been called. It is matter of time when Washington should think of alternatives to an unfaithful bed partner.

Americans are open to radical thinking. What’s wrong if a Shia power develops nuclear research capability in collaboration with the USA and Russia? What if such an agreement is reached? In that case can Iran be used to secure the flanks of Afghanistan in a multination guarantee? Perhaps such an agreement with Iran can be a viable step to ensuring a “neutral” Afghanistan and preventing Pakistan from unduly fiddling with its internal and external affairs. There are recent indications that both Moscow and Washington are gradually looking at the feasibility of this option. Friendly Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan should be better assurance to “neutral” Afghanistan than the wolf- at-the-door, Pakistan.

Is a “neutral” Afghanistan possible? Well, some loud thoughts are rebounding from one capital to another. The Kabul Conference held on July 20, 2010 had discussed many items regarding internal and external affairs and providing service to the people. However, none of the super-powers emphatically spoke in terms of a neutral Afghanistan. Some discussions had taken place about future dispensation in Afghanistan, but most leaders were of the view that Afghanistan’s independence and sovereignty should be assured by the international community. Obviously, Pakistan did not enjoy the interlocution and later deputed General Kayani and ISI chief Pasha to have separate discussions with Karzai about Pakistan’s sphere of influence in Afghanistan. Karzai also leaned towards Pakistan with a view to stabilizing his personal position, rather than the position of Afghanistan. But, his relations with the western community are visibly improving.

The NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke on the eve of the conference, exuding a high degree of optimism about the war. He wrote that NATO was “finally taking the fight to the Taliban” aimed at the “marginalization of the Taliban as a political and military force … [which] will encourage many who joined the Taliban to quit their ranks and engage in the reconciliation effort.” Starting the transition does not mean that the struggle for Afghanistan’s future as a stable country in a volatile region will be over. Afghanistan will need the continued support of the international community, including NATO. The Afghan population needs to know that we will continue to stand by them as they chart their own course into the future. To underline this commitment, I believe that NATO should develop a long-term cooperation agreement with the Afghan government.’ Obviously he had the support of Obama administration. Obama intrinsically supports the “neutral” Afghanistan idea.

Russia is not so emphatic about “post war” role in Afghanistan, but supports the “neutral” thesis. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointedly underlined in his statement at the Kabul conference the importance of recognizing Afghanistan’s future “neutral status”, which would preclude any sort of permanent foreign military presence. To quote Lavrov: ‘The restoration of the neutral status of Afghanistan is designed to become one of the key factors of creating an atmosphere of good-neighborly relations and cooperation in the region. We expect that this idea will be supported by the Afghan people. The presidents of Russia and the US have already come out in favor of it.’

The Chinese position is ambiguous. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi chose to visit the idea of a “neutral” Afghanistan, but somewhat tangentially. He said: The international community must give continued attention to Afghanistan and follow through on the commitments made in London [conference in January] and the previous international conferences on Afghanistan. We should respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty and work together towards the early realization of ‘Afghanistan run by the Afghans’. We want to see a peaceful, stable and independent Afghanistan.’ It appears that China is leading Pakistan in a joint approach to the Afghan imbroglio.

India has always supported the “neutral” status of Afghanistan and has recently reiterated, “India is committed to the unity, integrity and independence of Afghanistan underpinned by democracy and cohesive pluralism and free from external interference.”

However, Pakistan is not at all interested in any kind of Indian presence in Afghanistan. According to Chris Alexander, Canadian diplomat and former head of UN mission in Kabul wroting in an article in Globe and Mail (Aug 2, 2010), “The Pakistan army under General Kayani is sponsoring a large scale guerrilla war through Afghan proxies-whose strongholds in Balochistan and Waziristan are flourishing. Their mission in Afghanistan is to keep Pashtun nationalism down, India out and Mr. Karzai weak.” Kayani had reportedly offered peace to Karzai in case he agreed to shut down all Indian consulates in Afghanistan.

Though rendering support to “neutral” Afghanistan the USA is planning to set up a permanent military base in northern Afghanistan near Mazar-i-Sharif in Amu Darya region over an area of 17 acres. The base is about 35 km from Uzbek border and is likely to be a part of strings of US bases in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan etc Central Asian countries as part of its forward military missions in the region. Russia and China are not strategically happy with such US plans and consider the Mazar-i-Sharif base as an American plan to have a permanent foothold in Afghanistan.

All said and done, the Afghan kaleidoscope is still uncertain and Pakistan is still busy exploiting Washington’s vacillating indetermination over what to do with an unreliable ally. Obama should decide or face the wrath of the American people. The people can read history faster than the leaders can do. The same had happened in Cambodia and Vietnam. Now in South Asia Washington cannot afford to dance tango with an unfaithful partner which is conspiring with the Talibans, and is known to have links with al Qaeda. Whose war is the USA fighting in Afghanistan? Its own or Pakistan’s?