Much to the dismay of the conspiracy theorists, Secretary Mattis briefed the Congress with the words that the US was ‘in Afghanistan to make America safer and to ensure South Asia cannot be used to plot transnational attacks against the US homeland or our partners and allies’ Pakistan seems to have travelled a significant distance from the fetters of the conspiracy theory nurtured and propagated by the General Hamid Gul school of thought that the presence of the US in Afghanistan was not only to explore some hidden natural resources in Afghanistan but it was also to establish a regional surveillance centre in Afghanistan to look over the activities of Russia, China, and Pakistan. In 2017, Afghanistan’s treasure troves of coveted natural resources still await an explorer while Asia is still bald of a surveillance centre monitoring activities of the supposed counter-balancing super powers of the world. One of the blessings of the conspiracy theory is that it offers ample space to retired army officers to become defence analysts and adorn the media talk shows. It is beside the point that the monopoly enjoyed by these analysts over the identification and exposition of any conspiracy leaves an educated Pakistani flabbergasted. Supposedly, the intellectual ability developed in army’s training institutes is to analyse a situation on the parameters of critical analysis instead of being driven by the forces of ignorance and emotivism. The toll taken by the conspiracy theory was that Pakistan was convinced that the US was not serious about the purging of terrorist and militant groups. Rather, all outcry raised by the US was a subterfuge to divert attention of the regional target countries from the real motives of the US presence in the region. On October 4, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif met with the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department in Washington and duly acknowledged two important points. First, Pakistan shared with the US a common desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region at large. Second, Pakistan had “pursued a zero-tolerance and an indiscriminate approach in its campaign against all terrorist and militant groups.” When Pakistan says that it adopted an effort which was all inclusive (ie against all terrorist and militant groups) excluding none, contrary to the force of any conspiracy theory, Pakistan is acknowledging two things: first, the nuance imposing a division between a militant group and a terrorist group; and second, the activities of these groups in the past. At least Pakistan has understood that no refuge is available in a conspiracy theory that Pakistan was a victim of the clandestine objectives the US wanted to achieve in the region. Interestingly, on the one hand, Pakistan claims that it has no control over the intent and will of the Afghan Taliban, whereas on the other hand, Pakistan desires the US forces leave Afghanistan on its own, at the mercy of the Afghan Taliban In essence, the South Asia policy of the US was a development over the Af-Pak policy of former US President Barack Obama announced in March 2009. Khawaja Asif put the point across that, compared to other countries, the decline in the incidences of terrorism in Pakistan was a testament of Pakistan’s achievements in the war against terrorism. Moreover, instead of reproach from the US, Pakistan needed an adequate recognition of its contributions and consequent sacrifice in the war on terror. In response, to the relief of Pakistanis, US Secretary Tillerson did acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan. Interestingly, to the utter dismay of conspiracy peddlers, while briefing Congress on plans to increase troops, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said on October 3 that, if the US withdrew from Afghanistan, the US would be doing it at its own peril. That is, withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan was not an option and considering doing that would be tantamount to the undoing of the past constructed by the US in Afghanistan. It is in the background that the US wants to send an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to train the country’s security forces and add to the existing strength of 11,000 US troops in Afghanistan. It is not yet understandable what problem Pakistan is faced with the expected addition of another 3000 US troops in Afghanistan. That is, when Pakistan claims that it has taken action against terrorist and militant groups active in Pakistan, what makes Pakistan object is a similar action taken by the US or Afghan troops on Afghanistan’s terrorist and militant groups. Pakistan’s defence analysts are overlooking the fact that in their voice against the build-up of US troops in Afghanistan lies a two sided desire. First, there should be no increase in the US troops in Afghanistan. Second, they were happy with the expansion of the influence of the Afghan Taliban who claimed to have got control over about 40 percent of Afghanistan, especially in its South-Eastern part, since the end of 2014. Much to the dismay of the conspiracy school, Secretary Mattis briefed Congress Senators with the words that the US was “in Afghanistan to make America safer and to ensure South Asia cannot be used to plot transnational attacks against the US homeland or our partners and allies.” This point indicates that the memory of 9/11 still haunts the US which is not ready to prognosticate any new eventuality for the Taliban to take over Afghanistan and offer sanctuaries to any al-Qaeda like organisations to repeat 9/11. The US has refused to afford a repeat telecast of 9/11. What prompts Pakistan’s defence analysts to wish for the departure of US forces from Afghanistan, is not yet known. Interestingly, on the one hand Pakistan claims that it has no control over the intent and will of the Afghan Taliban, whereas on the other hand, Pakistan desires the US forces leave Afghanistan on its own, at the mercy of the Afghan Taliban. In short, both Khawaja Asif and Rex Tillerson agreed on two things. First, they acknowledged the efforts of Pakistan done in the past against the war on terror. Second, they acknowledged the need for doing more by Pakistan on the anti-terrorism and anti-militancy fronts. The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, October 7th 2017.