Admiral Mullen on landing in Kabul on April 5 expressed the hope that the new strategy would turn the tide in Afghanistan to US' advantage. He conceded that the situation in South and East of the country, which is the Pashtun hub, was worsening. Following his current position, he reiterated the importance of eliminating the threats from the 'safe havens' in Pakistan for peace to prevail in Afghanistan. Ambassador Holbrooke and Admiral Mullen were on a tour to this area. The presence of the two top officials indicated the high-level discussions that they would hold in Kabul. Holbrooke gave out they were trying to ensure that the forthcoming elections for the presidential slot are aggressively contested by the candidates. He went on to add: "It will be a primary goal of the press for a level playing field, free, fair and open elections." Such hectic activity by the Obama Administration stands out in sharp contrast to the out-going off-colour oligarchy. This also reflects his genuine concern for pulling US out of the quagmire into which she landed. Both the officials got to Islamabad on Monday evening for further discussions. Tuesday' joint press conference hosted by Pakistani foreign minister highlighted the 'gaps' between the two sides on drone attacks. The local media also carried banner headlines about a 'new strategy' including the raising of a 'special force'. Another meeting is fixed for May 7. The new Afpak policy by the US appears to be wholesome conceptually. It proposes to bolster that current level of foreign forces by the addition of 21000 US troops and few from UK. Their deployment is visualised along the Durand Line so as to undercut the free flow of movement of the 'insurgents' to either side of the divide. Now the dimension of the holding of fair presidential elections is being added to the raison de etre of the said force. Second, Obama appears conscious of the destruction wrought on the area in the last 30 years whose beneficiary was the US. The failure of the Bonn initiative of 2002 must also have attracted his attention. No wonder, Afghanistan is in ruins and Pakistan is also suffering, thanks to the obsessive approach maintained by the 'foreign forces'. Accordingly, Obama is keen on offering some compensation to the people by way of social development which can be seen to benefit the local people whose goodwill is crucial for future fellowship. He successfully persuaded his EU/NATO partners recently to put in more money to underwrite the outcome of the development effort in Afghanistan etc. Third, the Obama Administration realises that Pakistan has a pivotal role to play in the on-going crisis to stave off a disaster for the US and the area. Being a country with a big population, nuclear capability, a well-kept army, now a democracy and with a history of, generally, good relations with the US Pakistan acquires a unique position in the current drama. Thanks to the tendentious cooperation with the US since 9/11, Musharraf' policies, seen as self-preserving as well as otherwise, have brought Pakistan to the brink. In addition, the economic meltdown the world over has aggravated the ground realities awfully for its people. While most of the Pakistanis are freedom-loving middle-of-the- road Muslims, they get gravely offended by the 'collateral damage' caused by the US-bombings a la drones. One would like the new US initiative to work if a balanced approach, as indicated, is followed to unravel the crisis. However, despite the goodwill, one can see some snags in the air. First, Obama, unlike his nave predecessor, knows that only military-might can't win the day in this part of the world. History of the area is a record of the destruction of empires which tried to subjugate the people concerned over the years and all ended up as failures finally. The last to lose such a war was the Soviet Union which suffered dismemberment as consequence of the fight-back by the Afghans supported by the US, Pakistan and Islamic jihadi elements from all over the world. Being an astute American, Obama understands the pitfalls and is already talking of an 'exit' strategy while trying to make the area 'secure'. Second, the US appears to be suffering from a credibility cleft in the area. This appears to spring from the way she withdrew from here after the downfall of the Soviet Union which made her the sole superpower in 1990. Despite protests from Pakistan which had also suffered the depredations of the war next-door, with over 3 million Afghan refugees etc, proliferation of weapons/dangerous drugs, nothing mattered to our friends in Washington DC. It was indicated that as there is 'no free lunch' in the US culture, the area did not matter since the Soviet threat had been disappeared. As per the records our then Prime Minister, Shaheed Bibi, had approached the then President, Daddy Bush, not to abandon Pakistan and Afghanistan as they were licking their massive post-war wounds. He is reported to have shown sympathy but pleaded helplessness against the systemic constraints placed on the president by the US. Pakistan was penalised through Pressler Amendment while Afghanistan was treated as Cuba. Third, while the US won the proxy-war against the Soviet Union, it mobilised the jihadi 'cannon-fodder' from all over the Muslim-world. OBL was then an American-idol as he led his force against the Soviets and for President Reagan the mujahideen commanders were the equivalent of 'the founding fathers' of the US. The historic success made these 'freedom-fighters' assess their own potential to seek redress of injustices being done to the Muslims in all over; more so to those who were under 'occupation' like in Kashmir, Palestine, Chechnya etc. Prima facie the common perception here is that the New World Order believes in consolidating the status quo wherein Muslims, generally, keep suffering. Such sentiments spurred the emergence of the Taliban in the post civil-war era in Afghanistan in mid-90s. The killing of over a million Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan etc has further vitiated the atmosphere in the last 7 years. Obama says: "The United States is not and never will be at war with Islam." Despite such expression of goodwill, scepticism prevails, generally, in the Muslim world due to the lack of justice being encountered by this big community. Unfortunately US appears to pamper all the oppressive forces like Israel, India, Russia etc. It is well known that US has strong lobbies which militate against decisive change of policy vis--vis certain 'allies'. Such self-aggrandisement subjects US to becoming a hostage to 'special interests' which destroys its image among those at the receiving end the world over. The Asia Society in Washington DC has, recently, advised the US to use its good offices with India to settle the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan. President Obama' recent meeting with Prime Minister Singh during the G-20 summit, as per the Indian Express, also touched on Kashmir in this context. It is simple logic that if India and Pakistan are rid of this paranoia projected by the tension's let loose by Kashmir, they can cooperate against the extremists with single-minded devotion. The Foreign Affairs Journal has indicated recently that India is indulging in sabotage activities in Balochistan which should worry the US too. In addition to Afghanistan and Pakistan, India also has extremists as is proved by the 17 on-going insurgencies in their states besides the terror created by Modis, Thackerays, Bajrang Dal etc. Terrorism is a regional problem which can damage the whole world ultimately if these three countries with US' support can't join hands unequivocally to fight and defeat etc. The writer is a former secretary interior E-mail: