Special Feature

   
Geopolitical Agenda Turned on Its Head Pakistan, India and the United States
   

Surrender
Taliban Fighters Less Likely to Surrender
War on Terror: Is Iraq Next?

Unflinching
A Puzzling War
Seeing the World Anew
Closing in On al -Qaeda

Success Against Taliban Hinges on Pakistan
Emerging From the Wreckage

'With Us, or With the Terrorists':
Conflict Will Follow Taliban's Fall
Credibility, Diplomacy and Military Reality
A new New World Order?

First Strike Heralds Longer Campaign
Defense Spending Potential Rescue For Economy
East Africa: Terrorism's Ties to Drugs
The Money Trail
A Slippery Foe

War Plan 1 : U.S. Must Create Theaters of Operations
War Plan Part 2: The Afghan Theater of Operations
War Plan Part 3: North American Theater of Operations
War Plan Part 4: The Intercontinental Theater of Operations
War Plan Part 5: Follow-On Theaters of Operation

The Lines of Battle
Teetering on the Brink
Rescuing the Economy
The Battlefield
Washington Prepares for Long Campaign
U.S. Faces Islamic Radical
No Easy Battle

The Economic Aftershock
The Israeli Dimension
U.S. Needs New Threat Assessment
Hijacking Clues May Be Red Herrings
Explosions Cripple American Economy
The Coming Battle
Counterterrorism to Displace NMD

 

Geopolitical Agenda Turned on Its Head
2330 GMT, 020103

Summary

After nearly a decade of post-Cold War interventionism and the politics of human rights, things are changing in Washington. The Sept. 11 attacks have flipped U.S. geopolitical thinking on its ear, opening opportunities for second- and third-tier powers to exploit the anti-terrorism campaign. They now will be able to pursue their own local and regional interests -- with Washington's blessings.

Analysis

The United States has garnered the support of many expected -- and unexpected -- allies in its self-proclaimed war on terrorism. Britain is leading the peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan, Germany and Japan are both making their largest overseas deployments since the end of World War II, and former rogues like Sudan are offering intelligence and support to the U.S.-led campaign.

These contributions, however, are more than a show of solidarity with the United States in its time of trouble. The fight against terrorism is transforming the international geopolitical system, creating opportunities for nations around the world to exploit Washington's sudden shift in attention. Part of the fallout of Sept. 11 is that issues that once were key, like the potential rise of China as a global power, have become lower priorities. This change means Washington will no longer restrain many secondary and tertiary powers from pursuing their own local and regional interests -- so long as they tie those interests to the concept of anti-terrorism.

For Washington, this shift entails a surge in support for its immediate goal not only from traditional European and Asian allies but also from many states formerly considered pariahs or at least undesirables. For countries like Germany and Japan, the war on terror offers an opportunity to expand their own re-emergence into the international security system while proving their worth to the United States. More importantly over the longer term, however, Washington may condone -- or at least not condemn -- actions by other nations that it would not have countenanced under policy guidelines heavily influenced by the concept of human rights.

U.S. geopolitical thinking has flipped upside down. Washington, rather than having easily defined enemies like the Soviet Union during the Cold War and missile-proliferating rogue nations thereafter, now has an ill-defined and highly diffuse enemy: terrorism.


To effectively tackle the issue, the United States is looking to, and accepting assistance from, nearly every quarter of the globe. For their part, allies new and old are seeking to exploit the change in U.S. attitudes, finally turning to their own advantage the United States' position as the dominant power. In essence, other nations are portraying their national interests as commensurate with Washington's broader agenda.

This is happening in two ways.

For some states, such as Germany and Japan, Washington's consuming focus on terrorism offers an opportunity both to advance their own domestic agendas and to show their usefulness to the United States. As part of their contributions to the anti-terrorism coalition, Berlin and Tokyo have deployed their largest overseas military contingents since World War II -- Japan to the Indian Ocean and Germany to the Horn of Africa. This not only sets a precedent for future deployments but also demonstrates their value to the United States -- and they can do this while accepting few serious risks.

London, too, has stepped forward, offering to lead the peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. This has served both to assert Britain's role as the United States' foremost ally and to give London greater control over the future shape of operations in Afghanistan, rather than leaving it to be drawn into a U.S.-created situation over which it will have little control.

On the other side of the coin are nations that are exploiting the new U.S. agenda to press local and regional policies that Washington would have frowned upon prior to Sept. 11. This is becoming evident throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia, with India and Israel extreme examples.

Israel has broadened its campaign against Palestinian militants, incurring only weak criticism from the United States. Meanwhile, New Delhi has raised to a new level the issue of Kashmir and Pakistan's alleged support for militants, shifting tens of thousands of troops to the border and implicitly threatening nuclear war. Washington's long-term relationship with Islamabad, which was never entirely stable, is shifting into obscurity now that the U.S. goals in Afghanistan are nearly achieved. India, then, has gained substantially more room to threaten and bring force against Pakistan than ever before.

Elsewhere in Asia, the United States is increasing or re-establishing military cooperation with nations facing internal security threats, like the Philippines and Indonesia. These countries, which have known Muslim separatism and militantism for decades, now gain U.S. weapons and training, get potential human rights issues overlooked and don't have to concede to U.S. interventionism within their borders.

Other examples abound in Africa, which is taking on greater significance to the United States in its continued pursuit of al Qaeda. Ethiopia has allegedly deployed troops into southern Somalia, likely with the underlying goal of supporting a semi-autonomous local government that would provide port access to the landlocked nation. Although this may undermine the United Nations-backed interim government in Somalia, Ethiopia's actions could help block the return of al Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan.

Algeria is also offering assistance. It was the first Arab country to publicly provide Washington with a list of suspected terrorists. Algeria is using alleged links between al Qaeda and domestic groups -- including the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an offshoot of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) -- to gain Washington's support and perhaps assistance in ending a 10-year civil war.

Even Sudan, a country attacked by the United States following the 1998 African embassy bombings, is offering assistance. But in exchange, Khartoum wants Washington to reduce its support for the Southern People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). The United States is one of the largest funding sources for Operation Lifeline Sudan, a U.N.-led initiative providing relief and supplies to southern rebels.

With the hunt for al Qaeda and affiliated groups a continuing priority, Washington is opening the door to a massive shift in the global geopolitical situation. Around the world, new opportunities have been presented to nations long held in check by the global dominance of the United States. Secondary and tertiary powers are now at greater liberty to pursue their own interests without fear of repercussions from the United States -- so long as they lay them out as part of the war on terrorism.

The world is about to become a much more interesting place.


Pakistan, India and the United States
2230 GMT, 011227

Summary

With al Qaeda and Taliban elements fleeing Afghanistan, the United States will continue to grapple with strategic problems concerning its traditional ally, Pakistan. There are significant differences between what President Pervez Musharraf has said he will do to fight terrorism, what he intends to do and what he actually can accomplish. The threat of an imminent Indo-Pakistani war may be just the lever Washington needs to move Islamabad.

Analysis

The United States has been engaged in intense debate regarding the next steps it must take to eradicate al Qaeda. Two main strategies have emerged of late. One argues that there can be no solution to the problem of Islamic attacks on the United States until the regime of Saddam Hussein is eliminated. The other strategy argues that Iraq's role is secondary, and that the United States' primary mission is to prevent al Qaeda from establishing a command center in some other isolated country, like Yemen or Somalia.

Obviously, the strategies are not incompatible. Equally obviously, at least from STRATFOR'S point of view, the debate misses the point entirely: the next country on the agenda is Pakistan.

When planning for the Afghan campaign began immediately after Sept. 11, it was clear -- at least from a naive standpoint -- that Pakistan, which has an extensive border with Afghanistan and a long-standing strategic relationship with the United States, would be the strategic key to the campaign. The planners' first impulse was to deploy U.S. forces in Pakistan and prosecute the campaign from there. This proved impossible. Instead, U.S. ground forces had to deploy in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, while air attacks were carried out from carriers in the Arabian Sea and from strategic bombers on Diego Garcia and elsewhere. Clearly, some forces were deployed in Pakistan, but only under tight secrecy.

The need for secrecy is the key to everything. Simply put, the Pakistani government was not in a position to permit a war against the Taliban regime to be waged from its soil. This was not simply because of substantial sympathy for the Taliban in Pakistan, although that existed. Nor is it simply because Pushtuns, the foundation of Taliban power, live on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, although they do.

Rather, it was because the Taliban was ultimately as much a Pakistani phenomenon as it was Afghan. In a sense, the Taliban was a Pakistani construct, designed to conclude -- on terms acceptable to Pakistan -- the civil war that raged in Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal. Pakistan feared the ascendance of the Northern Alliance as well as other groups in Afghanistan, and saw in the Taliban a government that was congenial to Pakistan both strategically and ideologically. The ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service, was in many ways the godfather of the Taliban government.

As the Taliban government provided al Qaeda with a secure operational base, the United States continued to parse the issue of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is inconceivable that the Taliban would have been able to develop its relationship with al Qaeda without the knowledge of Pakistan's intelligence services and government, and it is difficult to imagine that they would not have given at least implicit approval. However, the United States was not prepared to frame the issue as an Afghan-Pakistani issue -- only as an Afghan problem fundamentally distinct from Pakistan.

This policy continued after Sept. 11 and throughout the campaign, despite the clear limits Pakistan placed on cooperation with the United States. Washington clearly and rationally wanted to contain the Afghan campaign. It placed sufficient pressure on President Pervez Musharraf to force him to remove senior officials who were too closely aligned with the Taliban, to permit at least some basing of U.S. forces in Pakistan and to publicly commit himself to use Pakistani forces along the frontier to prevent Taliban forces from crossing into Pakistan.

The United States recognized that much of this was cosmetic. Support for the Taliban ran deep in the government and deeper in the country. The U.S. forces based in Pakistan were hardly strategic. Finally, whatever he promised, there were significant differences between what Musharraf said, what he actually intended to do and what he ultimately was able to do.

The United States carefully refrained from pressing the issue, afraid that excessive pressure would topple Musharraf and throw Pakistan either into chaos or into a fundamentalist dictatorship. Or if excessive pressure threatened Musharraf's survival, he might simply reverse course and turn against the United States. In any case, the United States adopted a minimax policy -- it demanded the most it could get within the limits of what Islamabad could deliver, and it lived with the three differences: what was said, what was actually intended, what could really be delivered.

The manner in which the Afghan war concluded has suddenly rendered this policy untenable. While the Taliban has abandoned the cities, it continues to exist, both in alliances with particular warlords and in its own right. Where it exists most intensely, in fact, is in Pakistan, among Taliban sympathizers as well as among hundreds or thousands of Taliban fighters that have crossed into Pakistan during the past month. A very few have been very publicly apprehended, but most have gone to ground -- some protected by Pakistani forces.

Far more important than the fate of the Taliban is the fate of al Qaeda's senior commanders, including Osama bin Laden, and of its fighters. It is becoming increasingly obvious that neither the Taliban's high command nor al Qaeda's has been captured. The release of a new videotape that appears to have been made in the past few weeks, and perhaps as recently as last week, dealt a blow to speculation that bin Laden and the others were killed at Tora Bora. It was always problematic that bin Laden would have chosen to travel from Kandahar to Tora Bora in the chaos that followed his last known taping. This would be not only dangerous but pointless. It was far more likely that he went directly to Pakistan, where supporters hid him and may still be doing so.

Whether bin Laden is in Pakistan or has traveled elsewhere, it is clear that many of his forces as well as Taliban leaders went to Pakistan and that the vast majority of those remain. In other words, apart from native support for the Taliban and al Qaeda, elements from Afghanistan are now in Pakistan and operating under the protection of, if not the government, certainly elements of the government and powerful political forces.

If we are correct in this, then the problem the United States faces in destroying al Qaeda does not concern Somalia, Yemen or Iraq, but Pakistan. Ideally, the United States would like Musharraf to use his security and military forces to destroy al Qaeda's forces and hand senior leaders over to the United States. Certainly, this is something that Musharraf has assured the United States he would do. However, it is not clear that he is in a position to deliver on his promise -- it is not clear his orders are being obeyed. Nor, frankly, is it clear that he wishes to see these orders carried out. Certainly, he wants to placate the United States, but there is a huge gap between saying he will act, acting, and acting effectively.

A case in point is the Dec. 13 attack on India's parliament by gunmen, which the U.S. government says were Islamic militants based in Pakistan. There are two explanations for the attack. The first is that Musharaff knew about plans for the attack and sanctioned it. The second is that he neither knew of nor sanctioned the attack. In a real sense, it doesn't matter which it was. Either explanation raises serious questions about the course of Afghanistan.

All this creates a strategic crisis for the United States. Its fundamental goal is to defend its own territory against al Qaeda attacks and the global destruction of al Qaeda. In our view, al Qaeda has taken refuge in Pakistan -- historically an ally of the United States, and a country that poses a military challenge on an order of magnitude beyond that posed by Afghanistan. Launching a military campaign in Pakistan is possible but requires much greater resources than in Afghanistan, as well as the destruction of Pakistan's nuclear capability. Rather than use direct military action, the United States would prefer a more subtle lever.

The attack on India's parliament provides precisely that lever. Obviously, the shootout was as intolerable for India as a similar attack on Congress would be for the United States. India must react. But even apart from that, India sees itself as having an unprecedented opportunity to deal not only with the Kashmir issue but with the entire issue of the nature and future of Pakistan.

Pakistan's alliance with the United States has placed severe limits on how far India could go. However, a profound schism is developing between Washington and Islamabad as post-Sept. 11 events evolve. Clearly, both sides are doing everything to avert an open breach -- but equally clearly, if it becomes undeniable that Pakistan is harboring al Qaeda elements, a break becomes inevitable. At that moment, India would have the opening it has awaited for 50 years. The United States would be not be able to refrain from acting against Pakistan, nor could it act efficiently without Indian support and involvement. India was eager to help from the beginning; now the United States would have no choice but to accept that help.

The United States does not want an Indo-Pakistani war, but the threat of such a war is precisely what Washington needs to move Islamabad. For Pakistan, the threat of a war with India in which the United States either stood to one side or actively participated is the worst possible nightmare. By allowing the specter to rise, Washington has given Musharraf an opportunity to become more forthcoming. If he is in control but insincere, he is being shown the abyss and can change course. If he is sincere but not in control, he can show the abyss to Islamic fundamentalists in his government and bring them under control.

The problem is that many of the fundamentalists would actually welcome a war and even defeat by India. Their goal is to radicalize the Islamic world by demonstrating that Christians, Hindus and Jews have formed a vast alliance designed to crush Islam. A combined U.S.-Indian attack would be exactly what would be needed to demonstrate this to the world. The destruction of Pakistan's nuclear capability -- whether by nuclear or conventional weapons -- would further illustrate the point. It is therefore no accident that Islamic fundamentalists struck India at what would normally be considered the worst possible moment. From their point of view, it was the best possible moment to act.

This indicated that Musharraf may not be able to gain control of the situation, even if he wanted to. Thus, he visited Beijing in late December. China has historically been an enemy of India and an ally of Pakistan. Beijing has been extremely cautious since Sept. 11, but it remembers both the EP-3 spy plane incident and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's redefinition of strategy toward the Pacific and against China prior to Sept. 11. Beijing is happy to see the United States diverted. It would not be happy to see India emerge without a threat on its western flank. Hence, Musharaff had a very cordial visit to Beijing.

At this point, the strategic imperative of defeating al Qaeda begins to intersect with Eurasian geopolitics. It is one thing to take Afghanistan apart, quite another to do the same with Pakistan. Afghanistan's fate is of little significance to great powers. The fate of Pakistan matters to China, among others. At the same time, if al Qaeda is using Pakistan as a base of operations or even as a transit point and the Pakistani government can't or won't do anything decisive and effective about it, this strikes at a fundamental U.S. interest and cannot be tolerated.

The United States is, therefore, in the midst of a veiled crisis over Pakistan. It is an odd crisis in that Washington, fearing the consequences of a public confrontation, is trying very hard to maintain the fiction that Pakistan has been fully cooperating in the battle against al Qaeda, that it is acting effectively against the Taliban and al Qaeda and that its forces would certainly arrest senior al Qaeda leaders if they could catch them. At the same time, the United States is quietly showing Pakistan the abyss in the hopes that the plausible fiction of U.S.-Pakistani relations might thereby become reality.

The problem is that in Pakistan, there are those who prefer an open breach with the United States to accommodation. Even if we assume that Musharraf is not one of these elements, it is not clear that he can control them. If he can't control them, the United States is faced with an extraordinary dilemma -- to go into Pakistan and get al Qaeda itself. It cannot do this without India, and India will not move unless Pakistan's nuclear weapons are destroyed. It is not clear that U.S. precision-guided munitions are sufficient for a task that will tolerate no failure.

The rest follows logically


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