PAKISTAN could collapse within months, one of the more influential counter-insurgency voices in Washington says.
The warning comes as the US scrambles to redeploy its military forces and diplomats in an attempt to stem rising violence and anarchy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We have to face the fact that if Pakistan collapses it will dwarf anything we have seen so far in whatever we’re calling the war on terror now,” said David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer who was a specialist adviser for the Bush administration and is now a consultant to the Obama White House.
“You just can’t say that you’re not going to worry about al-Qaeda taking control of Pakistan and its nukes,” he said.
As the US implements a new strategy in Central Asia so comprehensive that some analysts now dub the cross-border conflict “Obama’s war”, Dr Kilcullen said time was running out for international efforts to pull both countries back from the brink.
When he unveiled his new “Afpak” policy in Washington last month, the US President, Barack Obama, warned that while al-Qaeda would fill the vacuum if Afghanistan collapsed, the terrorist group was already rooted in Pakistan, plotting more attacks on the US.
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“The safety of people round the world is at stake,” he said.
Laying out the scale of the challenges facing the US in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Dr Kilcullen put the two countries invaded by US-led forces after the September 11 attacks on the US on a par – each had a population of more than 30 million.
“But Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American army, and the headquarters of al-Qaeda sitting in two-thirds of the country which the Government does not control,” he told the Herald .
Added to that, the Pakistani security establishment ignored direction from the elected Government in Islamabad as waves of extremist violence spread across the whole country – not only in the tribal wilds of the Afghan border region.