The nation did not like it. It was a spectacle with all the wrong optics for a people who regard their head of state as the symbol of their national dignity and honour. The AfPak tripartite "summit" in Washington last week where President Zardari was bracketed with Afghanistan's Karzai and seated together first flanking the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at the State Department, and then overseen by President Obama sitting in their middle, sermonizing them on what they ought to do in the operationalisation of his new AfPak strategy was a "command performance" with no parallel in contemporary history. What came out of the event in terms of the new AfPak strategy? Nobody knows. Total ambivalence and lack of clarity was the name of the game. As Obama cuddled with the two presidents in attendance at Washington, his defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Kabul doing some serious business. He was replacing General David McKiernan, the top US military commander in charge of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, who seemed to have lost confidence of the new administration and apparently had become "outdated" for Obama's "new strategy." His replacement is a three-star general, Stanley McChrystal, a counterinsurgency war expert from Iraq. General McKiernan who had two more years to serve in his post has been laid off because apparently he was no longer considered "good enough" by the high political and military command in Washington. Defense Secretary Gates said at a Pentagon news conference that under the new strategy the mission in Afghanistan requires new thinking and new approaches from our military leader. "Today we have a new policy set by our new president. We have a new strategy, a new mission and a new ambassador. I believe that new military leadership also is needed." A new team of commanders will now be charged with applying Obama's revamped strategy for challenging an increasingly "brutal and resourceful" insurgency. The strategy, still in preliminary progress, will rely on the kind of special forces and counter-insurgency tactics. McChrystal knows well, as well as "non-military" approaches to confronting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Instead of any further military surge, the new strategy seeks a new direction that would hinge success in the eight-year-old war to political and other conditions across the border in Pakistan. General McKiernan's exit may not be the end of reshuffle process which it seems might also extend to change of key political faces in the region. If recent statements emanating from Washington have any relevance, two likely candidates in the "line of fire" appear to be the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan, both of whom have been the subject of "affectionate skepticism" from none other than President Obama himself. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has never impressed Obama who remains concerned over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan which was worse than Karzai claimed it to be. In a recent interview to The New York Times, Obama had publicly admitted that the Taliban were getting bolder than ever in the southern regions of Afghanistan, and the national government still had not gained the confidence of the Afghan people. According to him, "we have got to recast our policy so that our military, diplomatic and development goals are all aligned to ensure that al Qaeda and extremists don't have the kinds of safe havens that allow them to operate." And he said," at the heart of a new Afghanistan policy, is going to be a smarter Pakistan policy." He also said that it's very important for us to reach out to the Pakistani government, and work with them more effectively. In another interview, Obama had acknowledged that his "comprehensive new strategy has to have an exit strategy. "There's got to be a sense that this is not perpetual drift" he stressed. What he knows is that the planned military "surge" will not work. More troops will only heighten a "sense of occupation" among the resistant population. In this context, Reuben Brigety, an Afghanistan expert at the Center for American Progress has supported the Obama strategy while making it clear that "you have to have a political solution to Afghanistan, and I wouldn't rule anything off the table, including conversations with some aspects of the Taliban." In his interview to The New York Times, Obama had also echoed the same sense when he indicated that his doors will be open to approaching elements of the Taliban, if his administration's review recommends it. The new Obama strategy recognizes that military force alone is not a solution to the problems in this region. It is a welcome departure from the Bush policy of relying solely on military option. But there are other aspects that cannot be ignored in pursuing this new strategy. What he should also know is that Iraq's "Anbar" experience may not be workable in Afghanistan. Different war theatres warrant different scripts. Involving Afghan tribes in the anti-Taliban war might result in a civil war. It will be a dangerous mistake. The tripartite summit meeting in Washington last week was an opportunity for the main stakeholders to concert their views and approaches on the operationalisation of the Obama strategy. It seems the forthcoming elections will be a real turning point for AfPak strategy. Interestingly, the head of UN mission in Kabul, Kai Eide has asked the Taliban to participate in the upcoming presidential election across the war-ravaged country. "Call it reconciliation, or the peace process, whatever you want, but I believe that the opposition should know that those who want to take part in the election and respect the constitution should have an option to do that," Eide said. The Afghan election campaign has already started this week. The UN official could not have made this statement without Washington's prior approval. According to a report, this development come after a senior US official said that Washington was prepared to discuss the establishment of a political party for the Taliban insurgents in the war-torn country. Earlier William Wood, the outgoing US ambassador to Afghanistan, said the approval of such a party was part of a political strategy. According to him, "insurgencies, like all wars, end when there is an agreement, and there is room for discussion on the formation of political parties running for elections." US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has also recently touched on the issue, acknowledging that the US had a share in creating 'terrorist groups' such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban. "Let's remember here ... the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago ... and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union," she said in a congressional hearing. No wonder, the tripartite summit in Washington last week was a critical moment with skepticism driving the administration's evolving policy toward Afghanistan and the battle against Taliban insurgents, a conflict whose outcome will in part define Obama's presidency. What is of interest or concern for Pakistan is that just before the Washington summit, President Obama had publicly said at a news conference that he's "gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan," not about an imminent Taliban takeover, but about what he called the fragility of Pakistan's civilian government and its ability to deliver basic services and "gain the support and the loyalty of their people." It is exactly the same "lack of confidence" that Obama has been expressing about the Karzai government ever since he started his policy "review and rethink" on the AfPak challenge. There is a lot in common. If Karzai is becoming a liability for Washington and is on his way out in keeping with the need for new leadership with new thinking and new approach to carry forward the new strategy, the signals for our own president also appear ominous. General McKiernan's departure may just be the curtain raiser of similar exits at the top political level in both Kabul and Islamabad. The next few weeks are crucial. One also wonders why President Zardari is visiting so many foreign capitals and keeping himself out of the country for almost as long as his "distinguished" predecessor, General Musharraf did in the last days of his presidency. Is there another Swan song time for us? The writer is a former foreign secretary