National Security Advisor’s visited Washington, where he and our Intelligence chief seem to have been given a rap on the knuckles and sent back red faced over the expectations of US from Pakistan regarding Afghanistan. Apparently, the US has considered the reservations of Pakistan over being used as a ‘service provider on payment’, unworthy of any serious attention. That is why they have handed down a fresh wish list to the NSA having summoned him over to Washington. In the hindsight, the list the US handed down could have been simply read out by the State Department’s spokesperson during one of his routine press briefings, but then how come would the imperial US stamp its authority over Pakistan’s Afghan policy and show it to the world. Therefore, the satraps from Pakistan were summoned, soon after the US had trashed the demands of Ashraf Ghani, who blamed the US for worsening situation in Afghanistan because of the speedy pull out of troops. Emperor Cyrus had erected a lofty hall of envoys near the gates of Persepolis, where emissaries from all directions of his mighty empire would wait for weeks before being escorted into the Persian Court. White House has the same uncanny resemblance to that royal hubris. It shows temporary solidarity but destroys alliances, a process that Trump had kicked off by calling Pakistan’s monumental counterterrorism effort as ‘nothing but lies and deceit’. The US expects Pakistan to support the former’s objectives in Afghanistan, but only through coercion not cooperation. Certain leading TV channels and newspapers recently reported Dr. Moeed Yusuf saying that the US should not fully detach from Afghanistan as Al Qaeda might regroup in that country. This is a highly loaded remark which begs to be debated before it becomes a locus standi for the intrusive US to stay back in Afghanistan and a millstone around our neck like the indubitable ‘good Taliban bad Taliban’ or the ill considered ‘strategic depth’ faux pa. International relations are defined by measured speech with all nuances considered, unlike the tea room gossip where one can be somewhat lax with one’s words. We have yet another bloomer from our scholarly but increasingly light weight NSA. He is reported to have complained in an interview to the Financial Times that “The president of the United States hasn’t spoken to the prime minister of such an important country who the US itself says is make-or-break in some cases, in some ways, in Afghanistan – we struggle to understand the signal, right?” Strangely NSA seems to have utterly missed the fact that a lot of water has flown under those bridges, and AT are far more diplomatically, politically and militarily savvy now. Now see ‘could not care less’ way of the State Department, which responded to the cries of a baby from the pram. It assured Islamabad that Washington recognizes Pakistan’s vital role in restoring peace in Afghanistan and wants the country to play maintain that role. It further said that “Pakistan has much to gain and will continue to have a critical role, it should be well positioned to have a role in supporting the outcome” in Afghanistan. Put the two statements together and what you have is a coarsely powdered dignity of a country whose Prime Minister, very emphatically, tells ‘absolutely not’ to a raw question that asked will Pakistan provide military bases to the US to monitor Taliban in Afghanistan? Dr. Moeed Yusuf, please have a heart! Even if one is dying of cold, nobody unbuttons his jacket to show a tattered shirt below. This was the Foreign Office turf as a whole, and see what a mess has been created; certainly a butt of jokes for detractors at home and abroad. To yearn for a Biden phone call reminds me of a similar disrespect shown by the President Bill Clinton, when, after three days in India, he visited Islamabad for two hours, and Nawaz Sharif’s government bent down begging him; he delivered a blistering lecture on TV, and departed without even shaking hands. Do tell us that what was the great life saving motivation behind such an unbaked complaint? Leaving the discussion over the phone call petition, let’s discuss the plea for the bully to stay back in Afghanistan. It is a long held view of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, defense analysts, and foreign office experts that Al Qaeda had become insignificant, nearly like an extinct species in Afghanistan and Pakistan many years ago. Let me explain why? AQ had a role in 80s and early 90s when Afghan Taliban needed their logistic, military and weapons support to sustain their fight. With the passage of time, AQ became completely marginalized, and by the time it was 2010-2011 just as AT secured territory inside Afghanistan, it became self reliant financially and militarily. It was that period when Core Al-Qaeda leadership is reported to have applied for subsistence allowance to the Taliban leadership. Thereafter, Core AQ was only struggling to keep its nose above water, which should also explain why OBL was so ordinarily disguised before being smoked out and killed. Strangely NSA seems to have utterly missed the fact that a lot of water has flown under those bridges, and AT are far more diplomatically, politically and militarily savvy now. They will never and are in no frame of mind to allow AQ a predominant role as it was before in that country, nor will they permit an alien militant organization to regain a subservient position. They do not even show any tolerance for ISKP and TTP in areas under their control, which is why TTP sympathizers, PTM in Pakistan, Baloch militants and the like are becoming so terribly desperate. They will have nowhere to go. Conversely, the noise created by India and Ashraf Ghani regime against AT can be mainly linked to the fear of diminishing opportunities for their pet mischief against Pakistan. Therefore, for last eight years, I have maintained on all national, regional and global forums that Core AQ is no more a reality in this region and that AQIS is a minor faction and not a mortal threat. That center of gravity of AQ has shifted to the South western Africa, particularly in the Sahil region, where it is no more a monolith. On another hand, NSA’s statement tends to undercut Taliban’s stated policy determination not to allow Afghanistan to be used against neighboring countries, as also that the US troops must completely withdraw. His misplaced passionate appeal to the US to stay seems like a conclusion. Dr. Moeed Yusuf might have drawn, from his old notes, as Taliban’s declaration has not been put to test yet. In any case, AQ is not a swarm of vultures hovering overhead and would swoop down upon Kabul the very evening after last US soldier pulls out of Afghanistan. We need to understand that geographical reinsertion of this type takes time and can be easily intercepted. One is at a loss to understand what new facts or intelligence estimates, made NSA (I doubt if DG ISI supported) to utter this very serious statement. OBL, Al-Zawahiri, and OBL’s son are dead. Next contender, Saif ul Adil is detained in Iran, and AQ’s rank and file in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be counted on finger tips. By what stretch of imagination and touch of magic can these gypsies regroup to become a threat in Afghanistan again? Hard to imagine! The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army.