While the new strategy submitted by General McChrystal is being considered by the White House, things appear to be going awfully awry on the battleground. A recent AP report stressed that last year was the worst in terms of insurgency-related deaths, which soared to more than five thousand. Likewise, since the recent surge of troops, the Taliban threatened upping the ante. True to their warning, July/August saw a hundred US troops killed besides many times more sent out on DI-list. September too has seen a lot of the same trend while Octobers opening attacks denote dreary dimensions of the on-going war. The latest such attack on US forces launched on October 03 in Nuristan Province has, so far, killed eight US soldiers besides seven Afghan troopers. In addition, the Taliban took 15 Afghan troops into custody. Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman took credit for losses suffered by the US in Hamdesh District of Nuristan. He further said that the fate of the 15 hostages would be decided by their Shura. Badar, the governor of the province, claimed that the government forces were badly out-numbered. He emphasised that he had been requesting for reinforcements. The AP report further linked the Nuristan onslaught to the successful operation by the Pakistan Army in Swat which drove many militants into the contiguous Afghan area. It is said to have been a revenge attack on the US forces. The next day, an Afghan trooper killed two and injured two American colleagues after returning from a mission in Wardak. Nuristan, like Kunar province, lies in the East which has remained the Pashtun-citadel for centuries. Across are, generally, the FATA entities of Pakistan sharing borders with NWFP and Balochistan. No wonder when disaster strikes the Pashtuns living in the East and South of Afghanistan, their only way out is to seek refuge in Pakistan. When the Soviet troops entered Afghanistan, Pakistan, despite its own financial problems and without US bidding, provided all those who came to bearable survival facilities. No wonder, at the peak of war, Pakistan had over three million Afghans living on its soil. The primary motive was not politics but, generally, the Islamic concept that people in distress deserve deliverance. Pakistans western border is open like its US-Mexico analogue. The British drew the Durand Line to avoid facing dangers posed by the tribes on both sides of the border. A cost-effective system was devised and run efficiently for ensuring the security of the Indian colony. It also helped them in the 'Great Game of the 19th century between the British and the Russian Empires. As tradition dies hard, particularly in these areas, peoples access to either side of the border has remained fluid despite Pakistani troop-deployment. However, it is a 1700-mile long-border winding border which no state can easily shut off. General McChrystals new strategy, supported by the general staff, is based on further raising the number of US and Afghan troops so that the current priority signified by the force protection is replaced by providing security to the local people which forms the basis of their deployment. He thinks that this move will ensure greater interaction between the forces and the people. Emphasising that a foreign army alone cannot beat an insurgency, he advocates that his troops should learn Pashto to win peoples hearts and minds. Thereby he thinks that the current COIN can be defeated. General Petraeus has highlighted that goals be pinpointed to finalise the strategy. Afghanistan has become a thorny issue in the US. The conservatives, a la George Kennan, whose rep is George Will, in a recent column quoted the advice given by his mentor in 1966 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Vietnam: Our country should not be asked, and should not ask of itself, to shoulder the main burden of determining the political realities in any other country. This is not only not our business, but I dont think we can do it successfully. It accents the dictum what we can do to define the limits of US power. For this credo, George Bushs inactivitys in Arab-Israeli dispute was the best policy though it is widely believed that he was obliged to support the Jewish state to ingratiate vested interests. The other side appears to be guided, generally, by the idealism of President Wilson which translates in to what we must do foreign policy. However, the Afghan situation is so complicated that it appears to even cut across the party lines in the US. For example, Joe Biden, the Vice President, advocates a nominal role for US presence. His focus is on increasing the drone attacks against the leaders of Al-Qaeda. Joe demands all-out support for Pakistan as its security is crucial for the US. Stephen Holmes, a liberal Prof of NYU, underlines: Turning an illegitimate government into a legitimate one is simply beyond the capacities of foreigners, however, wealthy or militarily unmatched. General McChrystal denounced Bidens tactics in ISS London saying it would produce Chaos-istan. US Secretary Gates worries about increasing US 'footprints on the Afghan soil. Keeping his reserve, he admonished: And speaking for the Department of Defence, once the commander-in-chief makes his decisions, we will salute and execute those decisions faithfully and to the best of our ability. Likewise, most security experts see disaster for US if Taliban seize Afghanistan. Milt Beardon, a former CIA chief in Islamabad thinks: There is no possibility for the US to provide enough troops in Afghanistan to pacify the situation. He insists: Whatever we do, whatever measures we take, will affect Pakistan as the central element in this drama. Steve Coll views Indias role as polemic. He hints that as the US past involvement has been unreliable so the Pakistani institutions, weve tended to believe that the US is today latching itself to an Indian-based strategy in South Asia. President Obama is listening even on Air Force One whereby he met McChrystal. The new situation makes it Churchills a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. NSC Advisor General Jones comment to CNN that ideally its better for military advice to come through the chain of command, reflects the furore at home. Pakistan can help at a terrible cost, which is going up by the day. Can the US share the suffering on a long-term basis despite its politics? The writer is a former secretary interior. E-mail: imnor@brain.net.pk