VICE PRESIDENT Joe Biden observed at Baghdad on Saturday at a ceremony to take the oath of allegiance from 237 Mexican and Filipino servicemen and Iraqi translators as US citizens that the US had honoured its word and withdrawn its troops from Iraqi towns and cities by the deadline, June 30. Now, diplomatic intercourse, rather than military engagement, would be the order of the day between Washington and Baghdad, and the US would be ready to extend help in resolving political differences within Iraq, he maintained. Although Washington's commitment to a complete removal of its forces from the country by 2011 has a catch in the sense that it would continue to have heavy presence at bases in key locations, there seems to be an exit strategy. And as an overwhelming number of Iraqis are opposed to these bases, one would expect the US to respect the people's verdict and wind up these bases in course of time to give peace a real chance to prevail. On the other hand, however, no exit strategy has been devised in the case of Afghanistan or at least not revealed to the world despite President Barack Obama's statement that the US would not like to stay there for long. By now, the American policymakers would have learned the lesson of history that Afghans are a fiercely independent minded people who would not hesitate to risk even their lives to drive out foreign occupation. Unless these people know that there is a definite plan for the occupation forces to leave the country, there is absolutely no chance of winning them over either through coercion or negotiations. The resistance and unrest will continue to persist, with all its fall-out on military and financial resources of the US and its allies. Long-term military engagement would cost them whatever goodwill they are left with after their scandalous aggression against Iraq. And Pakistan, as an ally in the war on terror and sharing a large Pushtun community with Afghanistan, is paying a heavy penalty for continued foreign occupation. The serious security implications of the recently launched American military operation in Helmand that borders on Balochistan came under discussion at a meeting between the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff on Saturday. The assault could result in a large spill over of the Taliban into Pakistan whose hands are already full in trying to subdue the militant fighters in Malakand Division and other parts of the tribal areas. The situation should bring home to the US the need to urgently announce an exit strategy from Afghanistan.