The prevailing unrest in Afghanistan does not seem to have immediate end in sight. During the sixteen years long war American forces could not effectively check Taliban advance on battle fronts, nor could they perfectly carry out the capacity building of Afghan National Army (ANA) to properly meet the internal security challenges in country. Operation Enduring Freedom (October 2001 – December 2014) initially dented Taliban and had weakened their fighting muscle but could not fatally damage their resilience. International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) led security mission had also joined US forces with initial aim to help restore institutions of country and train ANA but subsequently this coalition force also involved itself in active combat operations in Afghanistan. ISAF concluded its operations on 28 December 2014 but retained its presence in advisory and counterterrorism capacity under ‘Resolute Support Mission’. Around thirteen thousand personnel of NATO member countries including a significant number of American troops are still deployed to provide security to vital installations, train and advise ANA and to participate in active combat missions when required. Despite that, the end to Taliban insurgency remains elusive as their attacks momentarily do subside but never come to a complete halt. About forty per cent of Afghanistan is currently held by Taliban. Their assaults are steady and proving to be insurmountable. Continual instability, opening door to more disorder is the major cause of concern for Americans. General John Nicholson, Commander American and NATO forces in Afghanistan asked for around four thousand more troops to augment the already deployed force engaged in special operations and in capacity building of ANA. Bulk of both the NATO and American troops had withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014. Their pre-drawdown strength was quite significant but despite that insurgents could not be subdued. How General Nicholson will manage both training of ANA and conduct of anti-insurgent operations with this small force howsoever be augmented with reinforcement is a relevant question here. President Donald Trump, beleaguered at home due to several controversies invested his defence secretary Mr James Mattis with maximum authority to decide the level of American troops in Afghanistan. James Mattis is yet to determine the strength of reinforcement required. Both State Department and Pentagon are reportedly not comfortably on the same page with regard to committing more troops. Reports are that US authorities might consider hiring the ‘contractors’ to provide private security to be deployed in Afghanistan. In this regard names of Erik Prince, associated with a security firm named ‘Blackwater’ and Stephen Feinberg, the financier and owner of firm DynCorp International are in circulation. Practice of outsourcing manpower to be deployed in a war zone is not new phenomenon. The outsourced manpower through private security firms gradually do ‘intelligence gathering job’ by penetrating, with subtlety the enemy lines. America has suffered over two thousand military deaths and spent billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money in this longest war. Besides Taliban, the emergence of ISIS particularly in Nagarhar and adjoining areas has been posing a new challenge. US forces are also facing increasing frequency of insider attacks described ‘green-on-blue’. Afghan soldiers due to multiple factors like stress, fatigue, racial bias and sometimes being cultivated by Taliban elements target US soldiers. Latest incident took place in June this year in Achin district of Nagarhar province where three US soldier were shot dead by an Afghan soldier. The perpetrator was instantly shot dead. Mullah Zabiullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman claimed this insider attack. These disturbing insider attacks are ever anticipated with no definite mechanism to ascertain as to which Afghan soldier will be the next attacker. There are several issues America is caught up with: Renewed interest of Russia in the region and its initiative seeking permanent settlement to end the Afghan imbroglio, China’s economic stakes and its overtures to see amicable resolution of Afghan muddle, and Pakistan’s concerns with regard to anti-Pakistan proxies being reared by India with the consent of Afghanistan government. Permanent peace with Sino-Russian initiatives is unlikely to go down well with American leadership for obvious reasons. Pakistan’s grouse with regard to proxy phenomenon creating internal security situation in its province Balochistan, FATA areas and elsewhere in country is difficult for US leadership to address as this requires restraining India from such indulgence. And India is there to contain China, a rival of America. Pakistan suffered colossal loss of human lives ever since the start of ‘war on terror’. The current lull is due to stern action against the terror networks and their sympathizers under NAP (National Action Plan). Resurgence of terror attacks can take place anytime as terror mongers’ handlers are sitting ensconced back in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also been hosting a record number of Afghan refugees and bearing their concomitant ills. Islamabad is liberal to movement of ‘man and material’ to and fro Afghanistan with an aim to lessen common man’s sufferings there but the acrimonious atmosphere develops between the two due to Afghan leadership’s occasional uncharitable statements. During the recent visit of a US senate delegation to Pakistan, Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee lauded Pakistan’s efforts against terror menace but while back to Kabul in a press conference he said something tended to repeat the ‘do more’ mantra. Delegation also demanded of Trump administration a new strategy to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan. Internal rivalries among the coalition partners of President Ashraf Ghani, diplomatic vacuum as US does not have ambassador with required strength of diplomatic staff in its embassy at Kabul and vacant positions at State Department have been noted by the senate delegation as sagging areas doing a disservice to situation in Afghanistan. President Trump is likely to react to senators’ observations by unfolding a new strategy on Afghanistan but permanent peace in war-torn country is likely to remain hostage to regional stakes of big powers. Writer is freelance contributor. He blogs at https://malibaloch.wordpress.com/ and can be reached on twitter @M_Abaloch Published in Daily Times, July 22nd , 2017.