Hurricane Hillary spent itself apparently leaving less damage in its wake than hyped. So much for the compulsive and embedded doomsayers. She was accompanied by a high visibility delegation, which, on the one hand, displayed unanimity of purpose, coercive ability, and emphasis on the gravity of then prevailing situation; whereas, on the other hand, the package possessed the capacity for multi-tiered and multi-directional engagement with Pakistani counterparts and the professional capacity for objective analysis. The meeting with the Prime Minister was terse, straight and demanding. It exuded the negative charge and tension in the air. It was an uneasy interaction. The remaining days charm offensive was to avoid further damage. The US did cede ground on certain key issues. It reconciled its assertion of the ISIs complicity with the Haqqani Networks (HNs) attacks in Kabul. The elimination of HN was toned down to squeezing it and the grudging agreement to give peace a chance, a catch phrase borrowed from Pakistans APC declaration. More spirit lifting was the US endorsement of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayanis assertion that Pakistan was not to be equated with Iraq and Afghanistan. As a supplement to this more sober and rational response was the declaration not to put boots on ground in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA). A hollow concession, as the US/ISAF do not have the capacity for any meaningful ground offensive, especially in their eclipse hours in Afghanistan. However, these were significant steps for the beleaguered Pakistani public. The Pak-US relations for decades have been that of inequality and clientage, of convenience and, in essence, transactional. But, generally, they had retained a faade of respectability and propriety till Admiral Mike Mullens infamous exit soliloquy. But all that is past now and Hillary Clintons visit does change certain dynamics. Far from achieving her objectives in Afghanistan, her options are getting severely curtailed. Timelines for thinning out from Afghanistan are staring in the face. The mujahideen are still irreconcilable. The Karzai government hold is tenuous. Walking a tight rope, Mr Karzai is trying to please the US, India, Pakistan and certain other engaged peripheral States simultaneously. The mujahideens sensing USAs weakness are becoming more obdurate and independent, even subtly defying Pakistans influence on their perceived ideological and national issues. In addition, Pakistans ability to beat, coerce or persuade the mujahideen is declining. Pakistan, while remaining sufficiently sympathetic to their just cause, has to join the global and regional bid for an all comprehensive peace formula. The US also has to revisit its design to keep military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. It is the biggest impediment in the envisaged peace talks as it irks, China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan, casting doubts on US intentions and capacity buildup. The US internal scene is soon going to be dominated by the presidential election frenzy and many global decisions are going to be impacted by the internal political dynamics. The US has to admit the failure of its policy in Afghanistan even tacitly, and design a more reality based vision and strategy. The US has many imperatives compelling it to cut losses, declare victory even partially and go home. It remains a power to reckon with, but its failing economy, foggy worldview, divided top echelon leadership and protest movement against the tyranny of its national institutions are making serious dents in its capacity to project power and sustain long-term operational commitments. Afghanistan may become its last large-scale war of occupation. It, therefore, needs to show positive results. The time favours the resistance fighters. The attempts to divide the mujahideen have so far failed. The Karzai governments writ is minimal and totally dependent on US presence. Northern Alliance can at best defend its own fiefdom. Afghanistan is not getting united under the US banner, within its terms and conditions and agreeable to its military presence beyond 2014. The US war lobby revolving around oil, natural resources and arms industries, having scored points in Iraq and Libya, has gloriously failed to assess Afghanistan correctly, leading to the stalemated paralysis. The vestige of neo-cons and politically ambitions generals have a lot to explain to the nation and ever-expanding anti-war sentiment. President Barack Obama, therefore, is anxiously seeking some comfort and fillip from the dismal regional scenario. Hence, the externalisation of AfPak affairs at regional and global levels is being engineered to show some real progress. The USAs change of posture towards Pakistan is a tactical manoeuvre to reduce visible tensions. However, it will continue pulling other more covert levers of influence in Pakistan to impose its will. Pakistans weak economy, bad governance, issues of corruption, political uncertainty and polarisation, socio-ethnic divide and sectarian and religions extremism, render it vulnerable on many counts. Continuation of psychological and propaganda campaign across the information channels is designed to create conceptual confusion and debilitating perceptual schisms. All the three major players, i.e. the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan, are under severe strain. So far, Pakistan had followed or reacted to the US design. It has to develop its indigenous, independent and holistic design, and puruse it more proactively. It must distinguish and deal with freedom fighters in Afghanistan, resistance group located in Pakistan and rogue extremist elements destabilising it internally, separately. So far, Pakistans counter terrorism policy and capacity has been miserably deficient, divided and incoherent. It needs to develop an all integrated and comprehensive system to effectively engage and neutralise extremism within. Karachi and Balochistan are still smouldering. The internal scene needs major corrections and conciliation. The respite accorded to Pakistan is, therefore, going to be short-lived. Pakistan can squeeze the HN through troops deployment at nodal points, logistic disruption and restricting money trail, but its influence cannot be all compelling. Simultaneous with the squeeze, the HN-Mullah Omer combine will have to be engaged through interpersonal, political and diplomatic channels as well. Essentially, Pakistan, its army and intelligence agencies have the ability to facilitate a broad-based mechanism, which can become the basis for Bonn + 6 and Chicago conferences. The Istanbul congregation can only give broad outlines and basis for all parties to remain engaged. The continued absence of mujahideen from such forums will render it ineffective and lopsided. Pakistan can act as the bridge, which can span the deepening schisms. The US and the world are grudgingly accepting Pakistans centrality to a regional peace construct. This crisis also has hidden seeds of opportunity embedded in it for Pakistan. The writer is a retired major general and former chairman of POF Wah and Pakistan Steel Mill. Email: