A soldier has the right to disagree with the higher civil and military command, but there is a method in doing so, and the way General Stanley McChrystal expressed his dissent, was, no doubt, 'unbecoming of an officer. Perhaps, he lost his sense of discretion, under influences, beyond his control, as one of his close associates remarked: He worked in a very right inn-er circle, doing everything together including getting dru-nk. However, there are some important aspects, connected with this incident, which need to be analysed. President Barack Obama, as we all know had promised while campaigning for the presidential elections that he will pull out troops from Afghanistan where the US is engaged in a purposeless war and also made a firm commitment to address the Kashmir issue; however on assuming the office of the President, he reneged on both. He caved into pressure by the military high command and the defence industries lobby for a military solution and a troop surge, although it was easy for him to say: President Bush has accomplished the mission in Afghanistan, and therefore, I have decided to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan. The US and NATO allies would have hailed this decision. On Kashmir, the Indian lobby forced him to restrict Holbrookes responsibility to Afghanistan and Pakistan only. But now, Obama is in a stronger position to carve out a realistic exit strategy. General McChrystal was certainly frustrated at his failure to achieve military success in Afghanistan, whereas General Pe-traeus was able to achieve a degree of success in Iraq. Petr-aeus exploited the ethnic divide in Iraq and mounted a successful strategy to divide the Shia-Sunni population, through a process of ethnic cleansing, riots and target killings, using Blackwater. On the contrary, there is no such ethnic divide in Afghanistan. The Pashtuns are fighting the invaders, while the Northern Alliance, consisting of the minorities, mainly supported the invaders and rode the foreign tanks to occupy Afghanistan in 2001. Together with the occupation forces, they also stand defeated. The Afghans have won, and therefore peace should be established, on this ground reality. David Miliband rightly suggests: The legitimate tribal and ethnic groups must be given real stake in the political process, a peace settlement in which we include the vanquished, as well as the victors. Obama therefore has to initiate the political process, for the peaceful settlement of the eight-year long, purposeless and brutal war, and the step that, he has to take, must be well considered and appropriate. As the first step he must engage and enter into dialogue with the Taliban under Mullah Umar. And also remove the trust deficit and reach an agreement on the basic issues such as the timeframe of withdrawal of the occupation for-ces, declare ceasefire, remove the ban on Taliban freedom mov-ement, release all Taliban prisoners, and negotiate a political settlement with full realisation that trying to establish a democratic authority on a country with a tradition of decentralised governance would prove counterproductive. The Karzai government at best can act as the facilitator, for the negotiations with the Taliban who may be willing to call a Loi Jirga to decide the formation of a national government, and the new constitution of the future political set-up. Other important issues must also be considered and consensus arrived at: > The status of US-Afghan relations, in the post-independence period. > Guarantees for no-use of Afghan territory for militant activities against other countries. > Firm commitments from the UNO, US, NATO and Russia to pay for the war damages and a Marshal Plan to rebuild Afghanistan. > Complete independence and freedom for the future Afghan government to establish diplomatic, economic and socio-cultural relations with all countries of the world. Pakistan has had the best of relations with Afghanistan, during the 80s, but distrust, doubts and apprehensions were created among the Afghanis, when Pakistans ISI, which had supported and conducted the war against Soviet occupation, was pulled out of Afghanistan during the 1990 under the US pressure. In the second phase, ISI was purged of all such operators, who had good contact with the mujahideen, but the greatest damage to Pakistans security was caused in 2003, when Mush-arraf pulled out the ISI and other intelligence agencies from our own tribal areas of Swat, FATA and Balochistan, and the space so created was handed over to CIA, to be joined by the Indian spy network established in Afghanistan, with the result that our entire border region was infested with foreign agents, who fomented trouble in our tribal belt, threatening Islamabad and Peshawar and an outright rebellion in Balochistan, thus creating a very serious security lapse for Pakistan. The new government formed in 2008 therefore decided to restore its writ in these areas and ordered steam roller military actions in Swat, Dir, Bajaur and South Waziristan. Indeed, Pakistan army could succeed only with full intelligence support which meant re-claiming the territories lost to CIA, RAW and MOSSAD under the Musharraf regime. Now our intelligence is well established in these areas and also the tirade against it for having established contact with the militants. This was an essential operational demand for the success of the military operations. But I am not sure, how far such contacts have helped narrow down the trust deficit between the Afghan Taliban, Pak army and ISI. The Taliban are one under Mullah Umar, who is sympathetic to Pakistan, despite betrayals, but the young Taliban under him do not trust the Pakistan government, its army and ISI. What leverage does Pakistan therefore have to bring the US and Taliban, on the negotiations table? Minimal The much needed trust therefore must be re-established, to play a positive role in determining the peace parameters in Afghanistan, as the exit process of occupation forces begins. Unfortunately, scope and options are limited for Pakistan. Thank you General McChr-ystal, for having facilitated the exit and the hurtling down of the rolling stones, down the rocky mountains of Afghanistan. If I am not wrong, perhaps, it was you, who remarked a few years back: Everything is so hard about the Afghans - their mountains, the people and their will to resist. You have been proved to be right The writer is a former COAS, Pakistan Email: friendsfoundation@live.co.uk