Predictably July ended up as the worst month in the eight-year old campaign for the foreign forces. As the US forces have spread out after the surge, their vulnerability also grew. Moreover it indicates intense planning by the Taliban to agonise the enemy. In addition, they also seized one marine from Paktika. Regardless of their own losses, they appear to be sending out a message to all. First, that 'occupation' can't succeed as they are bound to defy the same. Second, the coming elections would be a 'fraud' which would offer old wine in new bottles. They have already launched a propaganda campaign urging Afghans to stay away from casting of votes. As such their mission is well-defined and it seems to enjoy the whole-hearted backing of their ilk as per the local traditions. The Centcom's new strategy appears, so far, to rest on four elements. First, to try to inflate the 'boots on the ground'. Petraeus also wants the number of Afghan forces to go up. Second, the attitude of the US forces etc should become friendly so that they can guard vast swaths of territory to frustrate Taliban operations. This would offer an opportunity to the soldiers to adopt a new approach by maintaining a warm interaction with the locals to win them goodwill. Third, this would also lead to consistent combat operations against the enemy instead of the firefights utilised by the forces so far. Apparently the US forces, being in small numbers, used to resort to indiscriminate use of air-power against the enemy. This always led to the scandalous killings of innocent civilians including women/children which provoked condemnation, even from Karzai. No wonder, many people joined the Taliban over the years to avenge the killing of their kith and kin. Fourth, to damage the Taliban' sources of funding. Of late, there has been a lot of hubbub in US and EU about the new strategy in Afghanistan, perhaps, due to the heaviest losses suffered in July while the start of August shows the worrying trend continuing. As United Kingdom scaled down its operation, Miliband had to use political pep-talk to justify such a drastic change. However, new charades are being, generally, floated by politicians to soften the blow to the 'war-effort'. UK now wants the Afghans to take over the responsibility of killing the 'bad Taliban'. As a corollary, 'good Taliban' should be approached and offered a sop of power. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of France repeated the same logic in an interview/Monday with Le Figaro. Such tactics advocated by Karzai/Pakistan earlier on are now being perceived to be the best way out. Richard Holbrooke also repeated this mantra last week. An AP report indicates that Secretary Hillary Clinton has also supported Miliband's view. While such political stunts adorn the major capitals of the world, the situation on the ground is getting worse for the US forces deployed in vulnerable areas. As regards the Afghans, generally, they appear to live by their own proverb: "One hits him on the head, another on the ankle" for the last 30 years particularly. True to their tradition and history, they are not deterred. US forces are reported to have banned the cultivation of opium. This has been done as the Taliban, like the Northern warlords were making a lot of money and goodwill in the Pashtun areas by providing security and services to the growers on a big scale. As the Taliban had themselves successfully suppressed such cultivation due to relevant Islamic injunction, the change appears to be the outcome of the 'duty' to fight against the 'foreign forces'. However, an AP report indicates that the ban is irregular and the Pashtun strongholds remain immune. It is a catch-22 condition for the US. If it tries to enforce the ban uniformly, it may need a colossal force which would multiply their losses in a big way for two reasons. First, the Afghans are living, generally, on below poverty-line and opium trade appears to be their insurance against starvation. No wonder the World Bank also has been advising against imposing a ban to forestall a human disaster. Second, the political fallout of such a step would be difficult to handle as all starving Afghans could then join the ranks of Taliban. For Global Research, the new strategy in Afghanistan under General McChrystal is more of the 1970 escalation of Vietnam War whereby the Pentagon stretched the on-going war to Cambodia. Over the last few months, it is involving Pakistan physically as well as through the blame-game. The US has also brought in the top NATO military commander, James Staviridis as No 2 in Kabul who has, allegedly, a controversial past a la Columbia. Apparently Obama's surge may look like some serious fumble in Vietnam. However, we must not forget that while the Vietnamese defended their country in a historic way, Afghanistan is no Vietnam. History, geography and traditions make the Afghans unique when it comes to fighting an 'occupation'. The Afghan does not forget the wrong done to him. He is bound to avenge the same, as and when possible, unlike the Vietnamese unless a negotiated settlement is reached. In addition, the US can't 'nuke' them, as suggested by some loonies, since it would involve Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and even India. Moreover Afghanistan forms the gateway to the Vast Central Asian/Caspian Energy Resources which the likes of UNOCAL were trying to reach in 1997 and even later. AFP reports that Secretary Gates had a secret meeting with top commanders on Sunday in Brussels which included those in Kabul. Apparently the upswing of military casualties is hurting. It is also reported that Obama, generally, approves of UK's above initiative at long last. The Afghans and Pakistanis, generally, feel that botched up policies and disregard for the local culture, prompted by design or default, has put the US in a hole. Prof Stanikzai of the Kabul University stresses: "The West when it toppled the Taliban, mistook the Taliban defeat for its elimination. It was a big mistake." Likewise Mariam from France's CISR asserts: "The US strategy in Afghanistan cannot work, it is too late." As if this was not enough, Ahmed Rashid via BBC has observed that a chink is growing in Pak-US relations due to negative innuendoes from the latter' officials about the former. Obama is not George W. Given his statesmanlike solemnity, he would realise that US has permanent interests in the 'AfPak' region which would preclude decamping like in Saigon. It can't even desert the area like it did after the collapse of the Soviet Union under Daddy Bush nor can it maintain 'occupation'. Bruce Riedel considers a Pak-US relationship of "constancy and consistency" indispensable wherein aid is not "the product of temper tantrums on Capitol Hill." He even wants a fair solution of Kashmir so that Pakistan can concentrate consciously on the Western borders. The writer is a former interior secretary