The release of the 68-page long US National Security Strategy 2017 earlier this week has led to criticism from experts and practitioners alike. The NSS’ priority actions in the Afghan theatre need to be dissected because the US has been engaged in it for the past 16 years.While many may think of the NSS’ plan of action as something different, it is reasonable to assert that not only is it a regurgitation of the New South Asia Policy but also pretty much in-line with the concept of war-fighting that the US has adopted since the initiation of Operation Enduring Freedom. There are many slip-ups at the strategic level, but it is important to shed-light on how the US’ disproportionate application of military power has been counterproductive. In April this year, the decision to use GBU 43 bomb (MOAB) on ISIS-held compounds in Nangarhar was termed as a tactical one by the US military.The use of the biggest conventional bomb ever made to kill a few miscreants compelled many to question the application of force in a given theatre by the United States. Why did the United States use such a deadly weapon against the then nascent force in Afghanistan? However, this was not the first time that the United States miscalculated the use of force in this war-torn country. The disproportionate use of force was and continues to be a feature of US war efforts in Afghanistan. It stems from a preconceived fallacy and promulgation of a misjudged strategy.The military objectives of Operation Enduring Freedom were the obliteration of terrorists’ havens and the war-waging capabilities of the Taliban forces. The aerial campaign from land-based B1, B2 and B52 bombers has certainly had a telling impact in conventional wars but are ineffective against insurgents since they elicit strength from changing locations and tactics. With their leadership well intact, the Taliban regrouped and emerged as a stronger force. As things stand today, the Taliban is the greatest challenge for US and Afghan forces. The ill-thought out application of military power precludes the possibility of achieving success through the employment of a military-heavy policy in Afghanistan. The troop-surge in 2010 amplified the fact that an increase in firepower was an anathema to peace in AfghanistanThe ill-thought out application of military power precludes the possibility of achieving success through the employment of a military-heavy policy in Afghanistan. The troop-surge in 2010 amplified the fact that an increase in firepower was an anathema to peace in Afghanistan.However, this was ignored when the Trump Administration pandered to the Pentagon and announced the New South Asia Policy, a vague policy aimed at militarily defeating the Taliban. The plan is to overwhelm the Taliban through military force until it comes to the negotiating table. The Taliban, through statements and brazen attacks has highlighted one hallmark of the Afghan War: the more military power the US will apply, the more ferocious the Taliban will become. Regardless of this prevalent phenomenon, US military commander, Gen. Nicholson and the Trump Administration have vowed to defeat the Taliban on the battlefield. The NSS reads: We will bolster the fighting strength of the Afghan security forces to convince the Taliban that they cannot win on the battlefield and to set the conditions for diplomatic efforts to achieve enduring peace.What US strategic planners conveniently ignore is that the Taliban will not stop fighting unless foreign troops get out of Afghanistan. Apart from military options, the US has also virtually dispossessed itself from sources that can come in handy, should the US give reconciliation a chance. If the New South Asia Policy did not do enough damage to Pak-US relations, the NSS has.After Trump’s laudatory references to India and censure for Pakistan, the trust deficit between Islamabad and Washington has increased. Pakistan has always called upon the US to assuage its fears regarding Afghanistan. So, if anything, an increase in Indian influence in Afghanistan will force Pakistan to look for viable support inside Afghanistan because of its post-1971 security based thought process.The NSS reaffirmed US’ support for India in the region. It states: We will deepen our strategic partnership with India and support its leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region.All Pakistan watchers agree that the country’s strategic thinkers and policy-makers will find it doubly difficult to lend support to the US if the latter confers upon India a greater role in Afghanistan. Also, the US’ unwillingness to join hands with Russia in its peace initiative for Afghanistan has effectively taken away one of the most important levers to rein-in the Taliban. Earlier this year, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif said that Moscow has greater influence over the Taliban than Islamabad.While the reasons of continued US military presence in Afghanistan need to be discussed at length in another article, it is important to reiterate the fact that neither the US nor the Afghan forces can militarily defeat the Taliban.Despite the fact that improving governance and building institutions are key components of bringing lasting peace in Afghanistan, the US is singularly focused on and is chasing an abstract concept of victory. While unveiling the New South Asia Policy in August, Trump had no qualms in saying that the US is not nation-building anymore.With the endgame not clearly enunciated and open to interpretation, the only hope is to see stakeholders coming together for peace in Afghanistan and the region. However, the brewing Sino-US Great Game and the US-Iranian tiff makes cooperation highly unlikely in the times to come.The writer is a Research Fellow at the Lahore Centre for Peace Research(LCPR)Published in Daily Times, December 23rd 2017.