Khalid Iqbal The aides to the US President called the Presidential Strategy Review a diagnostic one, solely meant to assess the trajectory and progress of the Afghanistan mission two years into Obamas management of the war. The basic assumption has been that the surge strategy has produced results; however, the outcome is neither decisive nor durable. The momentum achieved by the Taliban in recent years has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas, although these gains remain fragile and reversible, the review maintains. Nevertheless, it has come at a time when the civilian casualties are at their highest since 2001. This year has been the bloodiest for the occupation troops as well; the US is taking the brunt of casualties. To coincide with the release of the review, in an apparent expansion of drone operations in Pakistan, a US drone killed nearly 60 people in Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency. The first drone attack in the agency was carried out in Spin Drand Village of Sipah area. Since the Lisbon Summit had laid down a broader framework for ending the war, the review was a little more than a formality - just tweaking the strategy around the margins and filling flesh into the skeleton. To time it with the Obama administrations review of the US war in Afghanistan, two groups - the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and the Afghans for Peace - jointly issued a review of their experiences titled: We want you out; We want peace. Anyway, Obamas review is just a report balancing the pressures from the military for more time to allow the troop surge to work and also the pressure to show that his administration is serious to end the war. The Republicans have been urging the administration not to withdraw troops on an arbitrary timeline; whereas many anti-war Democrats have been calling for a more rapid withdrawal of the American troops. However, it is repeated by the present US leadership that the drawdown will begin in July 2011. But how many soldiers will actually come home next July remains to be seen. The review describes both progress and challenges only in general and restrained terms, avoiding outright criticism of the Pakistan and Afghan governments. It points to a handful of areas where the influx of American troops has had an impact. For instance, night raids by Special Forces operatives and increased security measures in local villages are projected as having reduced the overall Taliban influences in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. Further, it said that the US continues to kill Al-Qaeda leaders and has diminished its capacity to launch terrorist attacks from the region; it however, does not mention names of the leaders captured or killed. Then the report maintains that USAs counterterrorism operations, including unmanned drone strikes, have been particularly effective in targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in the border regions. But nothing has been mentioned about the loss of innocent lives and no offer has been made for compensating the non-combatant affectees of the drone menace. Indeed, the death toll in the nine years of war has eroded the Afghan and American public support for the ongoing counterinsurgency effort. The latest polls by the international media revealed that around 55 percent of the Afghans want the occupation forces to leave the country as soon as possible. Nearly 75 percent of the respondents wanted the war to end by negotiating with the insurgents. Likewise, a record 60 percent of Americans say, the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, according to a new poll, which coincides with the Obamas review of its strategy. Only 34 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the wars been worth fighting. Meanwhile, the Afghans have complained that the focus on security needs and the needs to field local forces to fight the Taliban has come at the expense of focusing on corruption. Sanjar Sohail, the editor of a daily newspaper in Kabul, points out that although documents released by WikiLeaks reveal a deep concern among State Department officials over graft and foul play within the Karzai administration, that has not resulted in decisive action to confront the problem. He further opined: People here think that international troops have brought this government to power and support it, and at the same time, close their eyes to the bad activities of their Afghan partners. As regards the conduct of military operations in Afghanistan, recent American intelligence appreciations offer dim prospects of US/NATO success. These reports say that although there has been progress in the war, Pakistans unwillingness to shut down militant sanctuaries in its lawless tribal region remains a serious obstacle. The US military commanders and senior Pentagon officials have criticised these reports as out-of-date and written by analysts, who have spent little time in the war zone. While the US military officials boast of significant gains in the militants southern strongholds in recent months, they caution that it will not be possible to fully gauge the impact until fighting picks up again in the spring. David Swanson has reported that when Richard Holbrooke (late) was asked at a US Senate hearing earlier this year, that what was he doing and towards what end in Afghanistan, he repeatedly failed to produce an answer. That could explain his deathbed conversion and his final words to his surgeon: Youve got to stop this war in Afghanistan. The WikiLeaks disclosures have further enhanced the political baggage of the Afghan war. The drone attacks have dramatically eroded the Pakistani public support for USAs war effort; dissenting voices even from within America are snowballing at a pretty fast pace. Moreover, the review examines the progress in the Pak-US relations, which is called substantial, but also uneven. It also notes that the military gains came at a great cost to Pakistan, which endured military and civilian casualties from terrorist attacks. Although the review points to combat gains, a retired Marine colonel Ham-mes, who is now a senior research fellow at the National Defence University, says: Tactical success doesnt have any impact if you have strategic failure. He added: Its not time for another progress report. Its time for a new strategy. Hammes indeed offers food for thought. A dual track approach by the occupation forces focused at decimating the Taliban, while at the same time, wooing them for political dialogue is not likely to bring any sustainable change. While America is losing the Afghan war, it is trying to find excuses to blame Pakistan, on one pretext or another. Thus, it is time for Pakistan to carry out its own review of the Afghan policy, and distance itself from the US on the points where interests do not convergence. Now with the expanded public knowledge due to the WikiLeaks, the people of Pakistan are better informed on Afghan war affairs. It may no longer be tenable for Pakistan to continue with the existing policy that is largely viewed as an instrument of appeasing America at the cost of mid- to long-term national interests. The writer is a retired air commodore of Pakistan air force. Email: khalid3408@gmail.com