January 16, 2010

Yemen: Behind Al-Qaeda Scenarios, a Geopolitical Oil Chokepoint to Eurasia

Yemen: Behind Al-Qaeda Scenarios, a Geopolitical Oil Chokepoint to Eurasia



By F. William Engdahl, 4 January 2010

On December 25 US authorities arrested a Nigerian named Abdulmutallab aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on charges of having tried to blow up the plane with smuggled explosives. Since then reports have been broadcast from CNN, the New York Times and other sources that he was “suspected” of having been trained in Yemen for his terror mission. What the world has been subjected to since is the emergence of a new target for the US ‘War on Terror,’ namely a desolate state on the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen. A closer look at the background suggests the Pentagon and US intelligence have a hidden agenda in Yemen.

For some months the world has seen a steady escalation of US military involvement in Yemen, a dismally poor land adjacent to Saudi Arabia on its north, the Red Sea on its west, the Gulf of Aden on its south, opening to the Arabian Sea, overlooking another desolate land that has been in the headlines of late, Somalia. The evidence suggests that the Pentagon and US intelligence are moving to militarize a strategic chokepoint for the world’s oil flows, Bab el-Mandab, and using the Somalia piracy incident, together with claims of a new Al Qaeda threat arising from Yemen, to militarize one of the world’s most important oil transport routes. In addition, undeveloped petroleum reserves in the territory between Yemen and Saudi Arabia are reportedly among the world’s largest.

The 23-year-old Nigerian man charged with the failed bomb attempt, Abdulmutallab, reportedly has been talking, claiming he was sent on his mission by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen. This has conveniently turned the world’s attention on Yemen as a new center of the alleged Al Qaeda terror organization.

Notably, Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA veteran who advised President Obama on the policy leading to the Afghan troop surge, wrote in his blog of the alleged ties of the Detroit bomber to Yemen, “The attempt to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253 en route from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day underscores the growing ambition of al Qaeda's Yemen franchise, which has grown from a largely Yemeni agenda to become a player in the global Islamic jihad in the last year…The weak Yemeni government of President Ali Abdallah Salih, which has never fully controlled the country and now faces a host of growing problems, will need significant American support to defeat AQAP.”1

Some basic Yemen geopolitics

Before we can say much about the latest incident, it is useful to look more closely at the Yemen situation. Here several things stand out as peculiar when stacked against Washington’s claims about a resurgent Al Qaeda organization in the Arabian Peninsula.

In early 2009 the chess pieces on the Yemeni board began to move. Tariq al-Fadhli, a former jihadist leader originally from South Yemen, broke a 15 year alliance with the Yemeni government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and announced he was joining the broad-based opposition coalition known as the Southern Movement (SM). Al-Fadhli had been a member of the Mujahideen movement in Afghanistan in the late 1980’s. His break with the government was reported in Arab and Yemeni media in April 2009. Al-Fadhli’s break with the Yemen dictatorship gave new power to the Southern Movement (SM). He has since become a leading figure in the alliance.

Yemen itself is a synthetic amalgam created after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, when the southern Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) lost its main foreign sponsor. Unification of the northern Yemen Arab Republic and the southern PDRY state led to a short-lived optimism that ended in a brief civil war in 1994, as southern army factions organized a revolt against what they saw as the corrupt crony state rule of northern President Ali Abdullah Saleh. President Saleh has held a one-man rule since 1978, first as President of North Yemen (the Yemen Arab Republic) and since 1990 as President of the unified new Yemen. The southern army revolt failed as Saleh enlisted al-Fadhli and other Yemeni Salafists, followers of a conservative interpretation of Islam, and jihadists to fight the formerly Marxist forces of the Yemen Socialist Party in the south.

Before 1990 Washington and the Saudi Kingdom backed and supported Saleh and his policy of Islamization as a bid to contain the communist south.2 Since then Saleh has relied on a strong Salafist-jihadi movement to retain a one-man dictatorial rule. The break with Saleh by al-Fadhli and his joining the southern opposition group with his former socialist foes marked a major setback for Saleh.

Soon after al-Fadhli joined the Southern Movement coalition, on April 28, 2009 protests in the southern Yemeni provinces of Lahj, Dalea and Hadramout intensified. There were demonstrations by tens of thousands of dismissed military personnel and civil servants demanding better pay and benefits, demonstrations that had been taking place in growing numbers since 2006. The April demonstrations included for the first time a public appearance by al-Fadhli. His appearance served to change a long moribund southern socialist movement into a broader nationalist campaign. It also galvanized President Saleh, who then called on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states for help, warning that the entire Arabian Peninsula would suffer the consequences.

Complicating the picture in what some call a failed state, in the north Saleh faces an al-Houthi Zaydi Shi’ite rebellion. On September 11, 2009, in an Al-Jazeera TV interview, Saleh accused Iraq’s Shi’ite opposition leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, and also Iran, of backing the north Yemen Shi’ite Houthist rebels in an Al-Jazeera TV interview. Yemen’s Saleh declared, “We cannot accuse the Iranian official side, but the Iranians are contacting us, saying that they are prepared for a mediation. This means that the Iranians have contacts with them [the Houthists], given that they want to mediate between the Yemeni government and them. Also, Muqtada al-Sadr in al-Najaf in Iraq is asking that he be accepted as a mediator. This means they have a link.”3

Yemen authorities claim they have seized caches of weapons made in Iran, while the Houthists claim to have captured Yemeni equipment with Saudi Arabian markings, accusing Sana’a (the capital of Yemen and site of the US Embassy) of acting as a Saudi proxy. Iran has rejected claims that Iranian weapons were found in north Yemen, calling claims of support to the rebels as baseless.4


What about al-Qaeda?

The picture that emerges is one of a desperate US-backed dictator, Yemen’s President Saleh, increasingly losing control after two decades as despotic ruler of the unified Yemen. Economic conditions in the country took a drastic downward slide in 2008 when world oil prices collapsed. Some 70% of the state revenues derive from Yemen’s oil sales. The central government of Saleh sits in former North Yemen in Sana’a, while the oil is in former South Yemen. Yet Saleh controls the oil revenue flows. Lack of oil revenue has made Saleh’s usual option of buying off opposition groups all but impossible.

Into this chaotic domestic picture comes the January 2009 announcement, prominently featured in select Internet websites, that al-Qaeda, the alleged global terrorist organization created by the late CIA-trained Saudi, Osama bin Laden, has opened a major new branch in Yemen for both Yemen and Saudi operations.

Al Qaeda in Yemen released a statement through online jihadist forums Jan. 20, 2009 from the group’s leader Nasir al-Wahayshi, announcing formation of a single al Qaeda group for the Arabian Peninsula under his command. According to al-Wahayshi, the new group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, would consist of his former al Qaeda in Yemen, as well as members of the defunct Saudi al Qaeda group. The press release claimed, interestingly enough, that a Saudi national, a former Guantanamo detainee (Number 372), Abu-Sayyaf al-Shihri, would serve as al-Wahayshi’s deputy.

Days later an online video from al-Wahayshi appeared under the alarming title, “We Start from Here and We Will Meet at al-Aqsa.” Al-Aqsa refers to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem that Jews know as Temple Mount, the site of the destroyed Temple of Solomon, which Muslims call Al Haram Al Sharif. The video threatens Muslim leaders -- including Yemeni’s President Saleh, the Saudi royal family, and Egyptian President Mubarak -- and promises to take the jihad from Yemen to Israel to “liberate” Muslim holy sites and Gaza, something that would likely detonate World War III if anyone were mad enough to do it.

Also in that video, in addition to former Guantanamo inmate al-Shihri, is a statement from Abu-al-Harith Muhammad al-Awfi, identified as a field commander in the video, and allegedly former Guantanamo detainee 333. As it is well-established that torture methods are worthless to obtain truthful confessions, some have speculated that the real goal of CIA and Pentagon interrogators at Guantanamo prison since September 2001, has been to use brutal techniques to train or recruit sleeper terrorists who can be activated on command by US intelligence, a charge difficult to prove or disprove. The presence of two such high-ranking Guantanamo graduates in the new Yemen-based al Qaeda is certainly ground for questioning.

Al Qaeda in Yemen is apparently anathema to al-Fadhli and the enlarged mass-based Southern Movement. In an interview, al-Fadhli declared, “I have strong relations with all of the jihadists in the north and the south and everywhere, but not with al-Qaeda.”5 That has not hindered Saleh from claiming the Southern Movement and al Qaeda are one and the same, a convenient way to insure backing from Washington.

According to US intelligence reports, there are a grand total of perhaps 200 al Qaeda members in southern Yemen.6

Al-Fadhli gave an interview distancing himself from al Qaeda in May 2009, declaring, “We [in South Yemen] have been invaded 15 years ago and we are under a vicious occupation. So we are busy with our cause and we do not look at any other cause in the world. We want our independence and to put an end to this occupation.”7Conveniently, the same day, al Qaeda made a large profile declaring its support for southern Yemen’s cause.

On May 14, in an audiotape released on the internet, al-Wahayshi, leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, expressed sympathy with the people of the southern provinces and their attempt to defend themselves against their “oppression,” declaring, “What is happening in Lahaj, Dhali, Abyan and Hadramaut and the other southern provinces cannot be approved. We have to support and help [the southerners].” He promised retaliation: “The oppression against you will not pass without punishment… the killing of Muslims in the streets is an unjustified major crime.”8

The curious emergence of a tiny but well-publicized al Qaeda in southern Yemen amid what observers call a broad-based popular-based Southern Movement front that eschews the radical global agenda of al Qaeda, serves to give the Pentagon a kind of casus belli to escalate US military operations in the strategic region.

Indeed, after declaring that the Yemen internal strife was Yemen’s own affair, President Obama ordered air strikes in Yemen. The Pentagon claimed its attacks on December 17 and 24 killed three key al Qaeda leaders but no evidence has yet proven this. Now the Christmas Day Detroit bomber drama gives new life to Washington’s “War on Terror” campaign in Yemen. Obama has now offered military assistance to the Saleh Yemen government.

Somali Pirates escalate as if on cue

As if on cue, at the same time CNN headlines broadcast new terror threats from Yemen, the long-running Somalia pirate attacks on commercial shipping in the same Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea across from southern Yemen escalated dramatically after having been reduced by multinational ship patrols.

On December 29, Moscow’s RAI Novosti reported that Somali pirates seized a Greek cargo vessel in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia's coast. Earlier the same day a British-flagged chemical tanker and its 26 crew were also seized in the Gulf of Aden. In a sign of sophisticated skills in using western media, pirate commander Mohamed Shakir told the British newspaper The Times by phone, "We have hijacked a ship with [a] British flag in the Gulf of Aden late yesterday." The US intelligence brief, Stratfor, reports that The Times, owned by neo-conservative financial backer, Rupert Murdoch, is sometimes used by Israeli intelligence to plant useful stories.

The two latest events brought a record number of attacks and hijackings for 2009. As of December 22, attacks by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia numbered 174, with 35 vessels hijacked and 587 crew taken hostage so far in 2009, almost all successful pirate activity, according to the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center. The open question is, who is providing the Somali “pirates” with arms and logistics sufficient to elude international patrols from numerous nations?

Notably, on January 3, President Saleh got a phone call from Somali president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in which he briefed president Saleh on latest developments in Somalia. Sheikh Sharif, whose own base in Mogadishu is so weak he is sometimes referred to as President of Mogadishu Airport, told Saleh he would share information with Saleh about any terror activities that might be launched from Somali territories targeting stability and security of Yemen and the region.

The Oil chokepoint and other oily affairs

The strategic significance of the region between Yemen and Somalia becomes the point of geopolitical interest. It is the site of Bab el-Mandab, one of what the US Government lists as seven strategic world oil shipping chokepoints. The US Government Energy Information Agency states that “closure of the Bab el-Mandab could keep tankers from the Persian Gulf from reaching the Suez Canal/Sumed pipeline complex, diverting them around the southern tip of Africa. The Strait of Bab el-Mandab is a chokepoint between the horn of Africa and the Middle East, and a strategic link between the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean.”9

Bab el Mandeb

Bab el-Mandab, between Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. Oil and other exports from the Persian Gulf must pass through Bab el -Mandab before entering the Suez Canal. In 2006, the Energy Department in Washington reported that an estimated 3.3 million barrels a day of oil flowed through this narrow waterway to Europe, the United States, and Asia. Most oil, or some 2.1 million barrels a day, goes north through the Bab el-Mandab to the Suez/Sumed complex into the Mediterranean.

An excuse for a US or NATO militarization of the waters around Bab el-Mandab would give Washington another major link in its pursuit of control of the seven most critical oil chokepoints around the world, a major part of any future US strategy aimed at denying oil flows to China, the EU or any region or country that opposes US policy. Given that significant flows of Saudi oil pass through Bab el -Mandab, a US military control there would serve to deter the Saudi Kingdom from becoming serious about transacting future oil sales with China or others no longer in dollars, as was recently reported by UKIndependent journalist Robert Fisk.

It would also be in a position to threaten China’s oil transport from Port Sudan on the Red Sea just north of Bab el-Mandab, a major lifeline in China’s national energy needs.

In addition to its geopolitical position as a major global oil transit chokepoint, Yemen is reported to hold some of the world’s greatest untapped oil reserves. Yemen’s Masila Basin and Shabwa Basin are reported by international oil companies to contain “world class discoveries.”10 France’s Total and several smaller international oil companies are engaged in developing Yemen’s oil production. Some fifteen years ago I was told in a private meeting with a well-informed Washington insider that Yemen contained “enough undeveloped oil to fill the oil demand of the entire world for the next fifty years.” Perhaps there is more to Washington’s recent Yemen concern than a rag-tag al Qaeda whose very existence as a global terror organization has been doubted by seasoned Islamic experts.

1 Bruce Riedel, The Menace of Yemen, December 31, 2009, accessed here

2 Stratfor, Yemen: Intensifying Problems for the Government, May 7, 2009

3 Cited in Terrorism Monitor, Yemen President Accuses Iraq’s Sadrists of Backing the Houthi Insurgency, Jamestown Foundation, Volume: 7 Issue: 28, September 17, 2009

4 NewsYemen, September 8, 2009; Yemen Observer, September 10, 2009

5 Albaidanew.com, May 14, 2009, cited in Jamestown Foundation, op.cit

6 Abigail Hauslohner, Despite U.S. Aid, Yemen Faces Growing al -Qaeda Threat, Time, December 22, 2009, accessed here

7 Tariq al Fadhli, in Al-Sharq al-Awsat, May 14, 2009, cited in Jamestown Foundation, op. cit

8 al-Wahayshi interview, al Jazeera, May 14, 2009

9 US Government, Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Bab el-Mandab, accessed here

10 Adelphi Energy, Yemen Exploration Blocks 7 & 74, accessed here

NATO's New Strategy: from Balkan Wars to Energy Wars

The Commander of the south wing of the Alliance Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, who paid a visit to Pristina recently, told that KFOR was at the final stage of radical downsizing – from 15,000 servicemen in the recent past to 10,000 by the end of this January. Brussels said the step was made possible by the stabilization in Kosovo and indicated that it regarded the Serbian parallel self-government institutions functioning in the predominantly Serbian northern part of the province as a threat. “UN SC Resolution 1244 doesn’t recognize parallel institutions. We regard every violation of the UN Resolution as a security threat and we are therefore concerned”, said Fitzgerald.

It is an open secret that the confrontation between Kosovo's Albanian and Serbian populations undermines the fragile peace in Kosovo as well as in a number of other Balkan regions. By April Pristina plans to set up a Northern Mitrovica municipality, which is an Albanian euphemism for the Serb-populated northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica. To this end, the Albanian administration subjected the borders of the Serbian communities to an overhaul without the Serbs' consent. There is information that the new institution is supposed to take charge in case Albanian extremists provoke a new round of conflicts between the Albanian and Serbian communities. In other words, the municipality will play a role similar to that the administration in Georgia gave to the puppet administration of D. Sanakoev in South Ossetia. By the way, the UN Court of International Justice is expected to pass its verdict on Kosovo also by April. Albanian separatists are convinced that the court will rule in their favor and thus enable them to suppress the Serbian resistance, of course with the help of NATO's KFOR.

The threat of a new escalation in the north of Kosovo is absolutely real, but it would be unfair to blame it on the Serbian parallel administrations. Fitzgerald's references to Resolution 1244 are in fact equally unfair - the Washington-backed unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence by Pristina constituted a clear breach of this very Resolution.

There is logic behind the developments: in Kosovo NATO is beginning to switch to a new approach to safeguarding its interests. As a departure from the strategy of abstract presence in conflict zones, it intends to a priori decide unequivocally which of the sides in a conflict (in which NATO steps in as a separating force in accord with an international mandate) is its enemy and focus on confronting it. It has already been declared that Serbs are NATO's enemies in Kosovo, as are Bosnian Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Macedonia, the country's administration risks becoming NATO's enemy in case it dares to curb the surging appetites of the local Albanian community. The “point strategy” will help NATO spend less resources on sustaining control over the zones where the Brussels-style “order” has already been established and shift additional forces elsewhere.

Discussions in NATO Headquarters in Brussels provide further evidence that what looms on the horizon is a whole new strategy for the alliance. By the way, the group of 12 experts elaborating NATO's new Strategic Concept is headed by Former US Secretary of State M. Albright, a supporter of Albanian extremists who has been instrumental in inducing the demise o Yugoslavia. It has become known that the discussions far transcend the theme of the NATO members' own security which was at the center of the 1949 Atlantic Charter. Currently their focus is on the design of political and military methods of globally enforcing NATO interests, which are interpreted in a maximally broad sense. NATO documents invoke the task of maintaining efficient military potential across the entire spectrum of the alliance's missions without any geographic localization. Considering that the sphere of NATO's missions has already reached Afghanistan, there should be no doubts concerning the proportions of NATO's further “crisis management”.

Jamie Shea, who served as the NATO envoy at the time of the alliance's aggression against Yugoslavia, is to deliver a lecture on January 19 at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels indicatively titled “Energy security: is this a challenge for the markets or for the strategic community as well?”. The speaker intends to state from the name of NATO – for the first time with unprecedented clarity – that the growing might of such countries as China, India, and Russia compels NATO to face the question: “Is energy security something best left to market forces and to regulation or is it a strategic issue where an organisation like NATO can play a useful role?”. To take the role, NATO needs to suppress the remaining sources of resistance to the new world order in Kosovo and other Balkan regions.

Quantifying people’s trade-offs across liberty, privacy and security

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Security, At What Cost?

Quantifying people's trade-offs across liberty, privacy and security

By: Neil Robinson, Dimitris Potoglou, Chong Woo Kim, Peter Burge, Richard Warnes

The heightened security environment in the United Kingdom today is resplendent with examples of government policy that must strike a delicate balance between strengthening security without jeopardising public liberties and personal privacy. The introduction of national identity cards and biometric passports, the expansion of the DNA database, and cross-departmental sharing of information raise a number of privacy issues. Civil liberties may be suspended by the exercise of stop and search powers by the police or detention of suspects prior to a trial. Much of the current privacy vs. security debate occurs at an emotional level with little evidence informing the argument. This report outlines the results of a stated preference discrete choice modelling study that sought to objectively understand the real privacy, liberty and security trade-offs of individuals so that policy makers can be better informed about individuals true preferences in this domain. Three real-life case studies were investigated where these factors come into play; applying for a passport; travel on the national rail network and attendance at a major public event such as the opening ceremony of the Olympics. A panel of internet users demographically weighted to the UK population were asked to choose amongst different alternatives for each of the scenarios. The data was analysed and individuals were found to be willing to pay for advanced CCTV cameras with facial recognition technology, X-Ray machines & body scanners and various forms of security personnel. Socio-demographic segments in the sample also became evident.

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US Space team achieves key ground-segment milestones

1/15/2010 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- A joint Air Force and Lockheed Martin team developing the Space-Based Infrared System program, known as SBIRS, has achieved two key milestones: a testing milestone demonstrating the ground system is on track to support launch of the first SBIRS geosynchronous GEO-1 satellite in the constellation; and a maturity milestone moving the ground system into the next level of integration.

The testing milestone, known as the Combined Day-In-The-Life test, or CDITL, validated the functionality, performance and operability of the SBIRS GEO ground system for its planned operational use. The campaign included testing more than 1.5 million source lines of code and 133 ground segment requirements.

The new SBIRS ground system includes software and hardware necessary to perform activation, checkout and initial operations of the GEO-1 satellite after launch. SBIRS uses "Day-in-the-Life" test events to validate the integrated ground system following successful verification at the segment level.

"Our ground system performed very well," said Col.Winthrop Idle, commander of the SBIRS Ground Systems Group. "This test paves the way for the SBIRS program to provide a new, even more impressive level of information to the warfighter with the GEO system. The exceptional performance of the ground system is a true testament to the hard work and dedication put forth by our strong government and industry team."

The CDITL test integrated several geographically separated sites used for command and control, factory engineering support and direct interface to mission data users. The 17-day test included the use of high-fidelity spacecraft simulators to complete the launch and early-orbit test processes and products that will be used for the GEO-1 launch. Each site contributed significantly to the observed stability, robustness and operability of the SBIRS system.

"We are extremely pleased with the team's dedication and effort in delivering the cornerstone for a significantly enhanced early warning and intelligence capability for the warfighter," said Dave Sheridan, director of Lockheed Martin's SBIRS GEO-1 program. "SBIRS is now another step closer to fielding this critical capability and achieving total mission success for our customer."

Completion of the ground segments verification process and the CDITL led to the readiness milestone, known as the System Integration Readiness Review. This event, completed Jan. 12, officially moves the ground segment into the next level of integration. The Sunnyvale-based System Engineering, Integration and Test group formally accepted SBIRS' approved completed ground component delivered for system level integration to include multiple end-to-end test and rehearsal events with space vehicle simulators and the GEO-1 vehicle itself. This series of events are the final efforts leading to system operations readiness for launch of the GEO-1 space vehicle.

The first SBIRS GEO spacecraft recently completed thermal vacuum testing, the most comprehensive and the largest risk mitigation component of the integrated spacecraft environmental test program. The satellite is planned for delivery to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in late 2010 where it will then undergo final processing and preparation for launch aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle.

SBIRS will deliver unprecedented, global and persistent infrared surveillance capabilities by providing early warning of missile launches, and simultaneously support other missions including missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.

The SBIRS team is led by representatives at Air Force Space Command and Space and Missile Systems Center's Space Based Infrared Systems Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. SBIRS' prime contractor is Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, Calif. Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Azusa, Calif., is the payload integrator.

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center is the U.S. Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems including six wings and three groups responsible for GPS, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control network, space based infrared systems, intercontinental ballistic missile systems and space situational awareness capabilities.

Air Force intelligence agency officials support Haitian relief efforts

/15/2010 - LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- High-altitude damage assessment imagery as well as linguistic support are being provided for disaster relief and recovery efforts in Haiti by members of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency headquartered here.

The imagery from the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft based at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., is being used by Department of Defense officials to provide disaster assessments for the consortium of agencies working on relief efforts with U.S. Southern Command officials in Miami.

Analysts from the 548th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group at Beale AFB are providing assessments of the imagery to assist in all aspects of recovery and relief.

"The Global Hawk can shoot images fast enough so that it is close to video quality. Yesterday it took 400 to 700 images and today it will take 1,000 images over the country," said Col. Bradley Butz, the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing vice commander. "We are providing unclassified images to U.S. Southern Command for its use and SOUTHCOM, in turn, provides these images to the agencies supporting the relief efforts in Haiti."

"We are committed to working with our sister services, partners and allies to ensure our global enterprise can direct the talents of our team wherever needed," said Col. Daniel Johnson, the 480th ISR Wing commander. "Today that need is in Haiti, and it is our privilege to support this effort and hopefully help save lives."

Members of the agency's 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group at Hurlburt Field, Fla., are supporting Air Force Special Operations Command's efforts to stabilize the airport in Port-au-Prince as well as other security issues.

"Airmen from the 361st (ISRG), and others from the 70th (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) Wing, quickly mobilized to provide linguistic support for commanders in Port-au-Prince," said Col. James Rix, the 361st ISRG commander. "The objective is to ensure U.S. forces are able to work closely and seamlessly with local officials to assist Haitian rescue efforts, and facilitate U.S. and international community response to this disaster."

Unclassified photographs of the destruction in Haiti shot from a Global Hawk can be found at

Court Bestows Executive Powers on Nigeria's Vice-President

Court Bestows Executive Powers on Nigeria's Vice-President

14 Jan 10

The Federal High Court has ruled that Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan is to assume executive powers during President Umaru Yar'Adua's health-related absence from Nigeria, but there will be no formal transfer of power.

IHS Global Insight Perspective


Nigeria's Federal High Court has ruled that Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan should exercise presidential functions during the health-related absence of president Umaru Yar'Adua.


The court has said that the Jonathan can assume presidential functions, but that there is no need for a formal transfer of power to take place. This could result in complications, for it could bring the actual legality of the vice-president's assuming presidential functions under contention.


Given the difficulties that may rise in light of the power-sharing agreement between the north and south, the court has presumably chosen to opt for a soft approach, given the amount of opposition that would undoubtedly arise if the southerner Jonathan were to be given executive powers formally.

Order Restored?

Nigeria's Federal High Court has opened its doors to hear petitions from leading lawyers and rights groups calling for a firm stance in restoring order to Nigeria's political sphere. In the first of four petitions to be heard by the court, prominent lawyer Christopher Onwuekwe sought "a declaration that by the combined provisions of Sections 5 (1) and 148 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the vice president can exercise the powers vested in the president in the absence of the president having regard to the circumstances of this suit", NEXT reports. The call for the declaration was motivated by the need to restore "peace, order and good governance of the federation pending when the president resumes and takes over".

Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Michael Aondoakaa countered that constitutionally the president is not obliged to transmit a written declaration to the legislature and that the president is not incapable of discharging his functions. However, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court Dan Abutu ruled in favour of Onwuekwe's petition, stating that Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan has the right to perform the functions of the president. But the court also ruled there is no need for a formal devolution of powers to the vice-president.

The fact that the court has said that Jonathan can perform the functions of a president without there being any formal transfer of power has brought the actual legality of the vice-president's assuming presidential functions under contention. Some believe that the court ruling is more of a political decision than anything else. Akin Oyebode, a professor of international law at the University of Lagos, holds that under this ruling, Jonathan will be little short of "a pretending acting president without any constitutional backing", NEXT reports. But Richard Akinjide, a senior advocate of Nigeria, considers that the ruling has cleared up any discrepancies over Jonathan's role, for he is now to assume the full powers of the presidency. Three other petitions are to go before the courts this week. One has been brought by a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, who has called for all cabinet decisions taken in Yar'Adua's absence to be declared null and void. Another case is to be brought by the Nigerian Bar Association, which is demanding that power be formally bestowed on Jonathan. Finally, a rights group is calling for Yar'Adua to be declared missing.

Under Pressure to Quit

Political uncertainty has pointed towards a constitutional crisis ever since Yar'Adua left for Saudi Arabia in November, to be treated for acute pericarditis (see Nigeria: 27 November 2009: Nigerian President's Confirmed Heart Condition Raises Succession Questions). Yar'Adua's health has long been an issue of national concern—he suffers from a kidney ailment that has seen him seek treatment abroad before—but this has been his longest hospitalisation, thereby upping the ante in the succession debate. Pressure for Yar'Adua to step down from power was coming from various quarters, with eminent politicians and community members urging the courts or federal executive council to intervene. His absence from key public engagements, such as the swearing-in of the country's new chief justice, only fuelled speculation (see Nigeria: 31 December 2009: Swearing-In of Chief Justice Evokes Concerns of Constitutional Crisis in Nigeria). Then came the deafening silence from the president in the wake of the 25 December attack in which a Nigerian national attempted to blow up a U.S. airliner (see Nigeria: 29 December 2009: Nigerian National Charged with Attempted Suicide Bomb Attack Aboard U.S. Plane). Nigerians were furious that the political regime's state of limbo meant that there was no immediate, official line to defend the country from the global assault on its image; Nigeria was blacklisted by the United States and placed on the its watchlist (see Nigeria: 6 January 2010: Diplomatic Row Brews as Nigeria Challenges its Addition to U.S. Terrorism Watchlist). Meanwhile, domestic security challenges mounted, as the fragile veneer of peace in the oil-producing Niger Delta region was broken when the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) launched a warning strike on a Shell/ Chevron pipeline (see Nigeria: 22 December 2009: Hostilities Resume in Niger Delta; Government Accused of Neglecting Truce). This was compounded by the abduction of three Shell oil workers and the killing of their police escort in the Rivers State capital of Port Harcourt this week (see Nigeria: 13 January 2010: Hostilities Resume in Nigeria's Niger Delta as British and Colombian Oil Workers Kidnapped). Militant groups in the Niger Delta, desiring a greater share in oil wealth, greater investment, and a withdrawal of the government's Joint Task Force, seemed to be placated for a few months, following on from the government's amnesty offer in August 2009. Initial scepticism of the deal, in which the government promised an unconditional pardon for militants who laid down weapons, was soon replaced with praise for the government, as top commanders within key militant groups led by example and jumped on the amnesty bandwagon. There were no attacks on the oil industry during the amnesty phase; MEND respected a self-imposed ceasefire; and oil production climbed back, with Nigeria reclaiming its position as the continent's premier oil producer. But the president's absence from political life took its toll, as it appeared the government was backsliding on its promises of rehabilitation programmes for reformed militants and when monthly stipend payments were not forthcoming. Assurances from Yar'Adua ally Aondoakaa, who is distrusted by many, looked more like a cover-up, especially as he initially tried to downplay the president's illness. Yar'Adua's unconvincing BBC telephone interview earlier this week in a bid to quell the rumours did not help. Although his words were optimistic, saying that he would resume office as soon as he was discharged, his voice was weak and his speech was interrupted by pauses and coughing, suggesting that Yar'Adua was not as well as he would have others believe (see Nigeria: 12 January 2010: Nigerian President Speaks to Media to Dispel Rumours of Chronic Illness, Vows to Return to Office Imminently).

The public outpouring of concern has been strong, with protests staged in the capital of Abuja just outside the national assembly. Protestors included the likes of Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, and some wore t-shirts bearing slogans such as "enough is enough" while others chanted "Umaru, where are you?" the Financial Times reports. They called for the "offshore" president to step down, or at least hand powers to his deputy temporarily. Another protest march is to be staged in London (U.K.) tomorrow, where the Nigerian diaspora has been mobilised by the U.K.-based Nigeria Liberty Forum and the Save Nigeria Working Group. But the issue of devolving powers to Jonathan has arguably been obstructed by the tacit zoning principle in Nigeria, in which power is to be rotated between the north and the south. Southerner Jonathan assuming full presidential functions could be problematic for northern politicians, who are holding onto the idea that for at least the duration of the current mandate of northerner Yar'Adua—which will expire in 2011—power should remain in the hands of a northern politician. Jonathan's assumption of executive authority would put the rotating formula out of sync. Conversely, militants from the Niger Delta have warned that any attempts to obstruct Jonathan from power by northern politicians would be catastrophic.

Outlook and Implications

The Federal High Court's has generated mixed reactions. On the one hand, it is a signal that President Yar'Adua may not be returning to office as soon as he would hope, even though his recent BBC interview sought to assuage concerns of a power vacuum. The ruling seems to be politically motivated, because constitutionally the president is not obliged to devolve powers over to his vice-president. Given the state of upheaval in Nigeria, though, the court has aligned itself with Onwuekwe's petition: in the interest of peace and order, the vice-president should carry out presidential functions. On the other hand, critics consider that the ruling does not go far enough, because without a formal transfer of power Jonathan's execution of presidential functions will ultimately be rendered illegal. By taking a relatively soft approach, the court is presumably attempting to shield Nigeria's political infrastructure from greater instability, given the level of opposition that would be mounted against southerner Jonathan if his executive powers were formalised.

Contingency Planning: Terrorism and Indo-Pakistani Escalation

Source :

Council on Foreign Relations // Center for Preventive Action

Date Added:


Publication Date :




Abstract :

India faces the real prospect of another major terrorist attack by Pakistan-based terrorist organizations in the near future. Unlike the aftermath of the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, in which 166 people died, Indian military restraint cannot be taken for granted if terrorists strike again. An Indian retaliatory strike against terrorist targets on Pakistani soil would raise Indo-Pakistani tensions and could even set off a spiral of violent escalation between the nuclear-armed rivals. Given Washington’s effort to intensify pressure on al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated militants operating from Pakistani territory, increased tensions between India and Pakistan would harm U.S. interests even if New Delhi and Islamabad stop well short of the nuclear threshold because it would distract Pakistan from counterterror and counterinsurgency operations, jeopardize the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and place new, extreme stresses on Islamabad.


India faces the real prospect of another major terrorist attack by Pakistan-based terrorist organizations in the near future. Unlike the aftermath of the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, in which 166 people died, Indian military restraint cannot be taken for granted if terrorists strike again. An Indian retaliatory strike against terrorist targets on Pakistani soil would raise Indo-Pakistani tensions and could even set off a spiral of violent escalation between the nuclear-armed rivals. Given Washington’s effort to intensify pressure on al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated militants operating from Pakistani territory, increased tensions between India and Pakistan would harm U.S. interests even if New Delhi and Islamabad stop well short of the nuclear threshold because it would distract Pakistan from

counterterror and counterinsurgency operations, jeopardize the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and place new, extreme stresses on Islamabad.


The threat of another Mumbai-type attack is undeniable; numerous Pakistan-based groups remain motivated and able to strike Indian targets. Many of these groups have incentives to act as spoilers, whether to disrupt efforts to improve Indo-Pakistani relations or to distract Islamabad from counterterror crackdowns at home. Thus the immediate risk of terrorism may actually increase if New Delhi and Islamabad make progress on resolving their differences or if Pakistan-based terrorists are effectively backed into a corner. Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed are the two terrorists groups that

have proven themselves the most capable and motivated to carry out attacks in India. Al-Qaeda has historically focused its efforts outside India, but if the group’s leadership feels threatened in the Pakistan/ Afghanistan border areas, it might direct and assist regional proxies to attack India as a way to ignite a distracting Indo-Pakistani confrontation. Other regional terrorist groups, including those based in India, are improving their capacity to inflict mass-casualty violence, but because these groups lack clear-cut connections to Pakistan-based organizations, their attacks are far less likely to spark another crisis between India and Pakistan.

The more clearly a terrorist attack can be identified as having originated in Pakistan, the more likely India is to retaliate militarily. Groups that India perceives to have closer links with Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment—especially LeT—are more likely to inspire retaliation against official Pakistani state targets than those that are perceived as more autonomous, such as al-Qaeda.

In addition to the identity of the terrorists, several other factors are likely to influence India’s response. The two most important factors are the death toll and the terrorists’ choice of target. Three types of targets would plausibly elicit a significant Indian military reprisal. Listed in descending order of likelihood, they include: (1) India’s national political leadership, as exemplified by the December 2001 attack on parliament; (2) major urban centers, especially if radiological, chemical, or biological weapons are used to kill or injure a large number of civilians; and (3) symbols of national unity and strength, such as religious/cultural sites or centers of scientific/economic achievement.

The context of the attacks will also help to determine the potential for escalation. The perception in India that Islamabad has responded inadequately to the Mumbai attacks—trials of accused plotters are moving slowly and LeT ideologue Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is not in custody—strengthens Indian advocates for unilateral military retaliation. Should multiple attacks occur in quick succession, the cumulative effect would further diminish India’s inclination for restraint. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been a strong voice against Indian military retaliation, but his voice could be silenced by a future attack or otherwise drowned out by domestic political pressures.

India’s policies will also hinge upon its calculations regarding the efficacy of military action as a counterterror tool and a means to compel Pakistan to take more aggressive action against terrorists on its own soil. After the attacks in Mumbai, India’s leadership doubted its military options in both respects. Instead, New Delhi placed greater stock in an indirect approach; by showing restraint, India sought to induce the United States to pressure Pakistan. This gamble has not yet paid off to India’s satisfaction. Unless it does, New Delhi will be less likely to place a similar bet the next time around.

India’s retaliatory capabilities span a wide spectrum. If New Delhi determines that its assailants acted with little or indirect assistance from Pakistan’s military or intelligence agencies, its most likely response would be to conduct airstrikes against suspected terrorist training camps in Pakistan. During these operations, India would attempt to limit civilian casualties and direct combat with the Pakistani military to reduce the prospects for escalation. Such an attack would not significantly curtail the terrorist threat, but it might satisfy India’s domestic compulsions to punish the perpetrators.

The more egregious the terrorist attack and the more India’s leadership is convinced that members of the Pakistani state sponsored it, the more it will be treated as an act of war. Under these conditions, New Delhi would consider a wider range of options, including, for instance, a large ground-force mobilization of the sort India conducted in 20012002 in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament or a naval blockade. Unless the initial terrorist attack is nuclear—which is implausible for now because Pakistani terrorists do not appear to have access to nuclear materials or the capacity to utilize them—India would refrain from using its nuclear weapons in retaliation.

Pakistan’s leaders would come under tremendous domestic pressure (and for the most part would be inclined) to counter nearly any sort of Indian military retaliation. Even the least invasive of India’s possible military options, such as a resumption of artillery shelling across the Line of Control—the de facto border between Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir—Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership would be consumed by the crisis and distracted from other issues. Pakistan’s military response could be intentionally disproportionate to the initial Indian attack so as to compel the international community to force a ceasefire. That said, Pakistan’s present government and military command also have meaningful incentives to calibrate their actions from the start, not least the desire to limit international pressure and to retain ties with partners in Beijing, Riyadh, and Washington.

A military exchange between India and Pakistan sparked by a terrorist attack in India is not likely to cross the nuclear threshold. Several conceivable circumstances could alter this conclusion, but two stand out: (1) India suffers additional catastrophic terrorist attacks in the midst of the crisis, driving it to intensify the conflict to a point where Pakistan’s army determines it cannot defend the state by conventional means, and (2) Pakistan’s nuclear command, as yet untested by major conventional attacks, is blinded or confused to the point that it authorizes a first strike.


Aside from U.S. humanitarian concerns, the need to protect American citizens and business interests in South Asia, and the risk of nuclear escalation whenever tension rises between India and Pakistan, Washington’s immediate concern in the event of another terrorist attack in India lies in avoiding an Indo-Pakistani crisis that would undermine the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan or distract Pakistan from ongoing counterterror and counterinsurgency operations. The potential disruption of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan stems in part from the fact that Pakistan serves as a vital—in many ways irreplaceable—logistics hub and overland corridor for U.S. and NATO operations. An Indo-Pakistani military confrontation could close Pakistan’s ports or otherwise delay shipments for a significant time. Short of war, if Islamabad believes Washington is ignoring its concerns, it can manipulate these supply routes to demonstrate its strategic value to Washington.

As the Obama administration ramps up its military commitment in Afghanistan, Washington’s logistical dependence upon Pakistan will only deepen. Previous Indo-Pakistani crises show that Pakistan’s military will give greater priority to the threat from India than to the threat from militants operating along the Afghan border. At the very least, a crisis with India would compel Pakistan’s general staff to redirect attention and time from ongoing operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and could derail intelligence and law enforcement activities connected to a range of counterterror efforts. Even a relatively brief disruption of these activities could impose high costs on the United States, given the fact that al-Qaeda and other anti-Western terrorist groups operate from Pakistani territory. More broadly, the United States would also suffer if an Indo-Pakistani crisis weakens the stability and capacity of Pakistan’s government or creates new, long-lasting tensions between U.S. partners in New Delhi and Islamabad. The frailty of Pakistan’s governing institutions already offers a permissive environment to antistate militants and extremists. A failed military exchange with India could deliver a body blow to the legitimacy and authority of Pakistani state institutions, opening even more space for extreme alternatives. And although the United States has lived through periods of intense Indo-Pakistani hostility in the past, there has never been a time when bilateral relations with the two countries were simultaneously considered as strategically prized as they are today. Washington’s interest in Indo-Pakistani détente also grows the more the United States invests in Afghanistan’s stability; heightened violence between warring Afghan proxies supported by India and Pakistan would be an almost certain consequence of new hostilities between New Delhi and Islamabad.


Defensive Counterterror Operations

After the attacks in Mumbai, Washington and New Delhi increased their joint investigative efforts, achieving an unprecedented level of cooperation that included significant contributions by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Although “success” in an endeavor of this sort is always a moving target, the Indian home minister has claimed that several follow-on attacks were foiled in 2009. Since India still lacks adequate intelligence collection capacity, highly trained, equipped, and mobile security forces and protection units for VIPs, and disaster preparedness programs to help limit mass casualties, the United States could share its own resources. For Washington, the primary complicating factor in sharing intelligence or enhancing India’s own collection capacity is the need to avoid actions that Islamabad will perceive as threatening its national security. Washington could provide defensive counterterrorism aid to Pakistan as well. The United States has a strong interest in obstructing terrorist access to nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, materials, and/or know-how. Washington already works with the Pakistani army to improve the safety and security of its nuclear program, but Islamabad’s political sensitivities and U.S. nonproliferation laws and treaty obligations—including the U.S. Atomic Energy Act and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)—severely constrain the scale and scope of these activities. Washington could consider amending its laws to permit closer engagement with Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Even so, it will be difficult to win sufficient Pakistani confidence to permit direct U.S. involvement in implementing security and safety measures for the nuclear arsenal. As for other weapons of mass destruction, Washington could work with Pakistani law enforcement authorities to collect information about points of access to materials and individuals with sufficient training and then provide financial and technical assistance to better monitor these potential threats.

Offensive Counterterror Operations

Progress in efforts to dismantle terrorist groups that operate inside Pakistan is harder to judge. After Mumbai, Pakistan shut down some facilities linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba and its associated humanitarian organization, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), and made a number of arrests. However, the limited extent of this effort raises serious questions about whether Islamabad is fully willing and able to tackle LeT/JuD in the same way it has gone after elements of the Pakistani Taliban and other extremist sectarian groups in the past.Washington’s unilateral ability to act against members of these groups and their associates in Pakistan is also circumscribed by public and official sensitivity about U.S. violations of Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty. U.S. intelligence or military operations directed against these groups inside Pakistan might jeopardize ongoing cooperation with Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment in pursuit of other high-priority U.S. goals. Lower risk approaches would include increasing diplomatic pressure on Islamabad to crack down on militant facilities and leaders throughout Pakistan and underwriting demobilization, deradicalization, and vocational education projects for reconcilable members of these organizations.

If the United States is willing to accept greater risk to ongoing cooperative ventures with Pakistan, it might seek to infiltrate LeT and affiliated groups to collect intelligence, foil plots, spread disinformation, and locate specific members for arrest or elimination. Recent allegations that U.S. citizens have independently sought training from LeT suggest that infiltration is a realistic proposition. Absent successful infiltration, Washington could use a range of other standard intelligence tools to track and weaken LeT and could consider attacking terrorist bases inside Pakistan. U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles already target militant groups based along the Afghan border, and, on at least one reported occasion in September 2008, U.S. helicopter-borne commandos raided a militant compound inside

Pakistan. That attack spurred a particularly sharp, negative reaction from Pakistan’s army, punctuated by a threat to shoot down U.S. aircraft should they again stray into Pakistani airspace. Efforts to extend drone attacks or commando raids farther from the Afghan border and/or into Pakistan’s urban centers would be more technically challenging and would also increase the possibility that the Pakistani military, or public, will react harshly.

Deterrent Actions

To the extent that Pakistan-based terrorists are willing to die for their cause, it will be impossible for Washington to level threats that deter them from plotting acts against India. Accordingly, the U.S. deterrent effort must focus on the less ideologically committed facilitators who make it possible for terrorists to operate in Pakistan. Washington can make credible threats against these individuals only if they are located and if effective points of leverage (such as threats to physical or financial security) are identified. Intelligence operations of this sort would be extremely difficult without some measure of official Pakistani assistance, but might be possible in selected instances.

Pakistan’s terrorists operate within a nearly ideal recruiting ground of extreme anti-

Americanism, poverty, and limited educational opportunities. The United States could try to reduce the overarching threat posed by extremism in Pakistan, but its efforts are unlikely to pay off in the near term. Even so, U.S. public diplomacy, ideally backed by influential Muslim voices from the region, could be targeted at reducing the popular Pakistani view that waging jihad through terrorism is a religiously or socially justifiable activity. In addition, U.S. economic assistance and trade policy can be crafted with special attention to enhancing opportunities for young, at-risk Pakistani men. But given that some of the most sophisticated international terrorists come from middle- or upper-class backgrounds, and that only very small numbers of recruits are needed to execute acts of spectacular violence, these developmental approaches will never take the place of aggressive law enforcement.

Diplomacy and Domestic Politics

Despite its obvious interest in improving relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, Washington should resist the temptation to impose itself as a mediator in Indo-Pakistani normalization efforts.

Recent history suggests that India and Pakistan can conduct serious bilateral talks without U.S. mediation, and that a public U.S. mediation effort would likely prove counterproductive, in part because New Delhi would resist it.

India and Pakistan can do little to convince extremists of the merits of bilateral normalization, but leaders in both countries could do more to mobilize domestic political constituents behind any new formal or back-channel negotiating process. In the event of a terrorist spoiler attack, these efforts could help to mitigate political pressures for military escalation. As part of a discreet effort to facilitate better relations between India and Pakistan, Washington could quietly counsel political and military leaders about the need to insulate future negotiations from a domestic political backlash in the event of another terrorist attack.


Even if efforts to prevent another terrorist attack fall short, the United States has meaningful policy options to manage a future Indo-Pakistani crisis and avoid the worst scenarios of destabilizing military escalation. Some of these policies would need to be in place before the next crisis starts, while others might be implemented after it does.

Pre-Crisis Measures

One lesson to be gleaned from the 2008 attack on Mumbai is that the Indian government felt tremendous domestic political pressure to take action, even if the prime minister believed that military retaliation would prove counterproductive. To help appease popular sentiment and respond to critics within and outside the governing coalition, the Congress Party leadership took several nonmilitary steps, including announcing a pause in its “composite dialogue” with Pakistan, approaching the UN Security Council to proscribe JuD as a terrorist organization, and canceling a tour of Pakistan by India’s national cricket team. In the months after Mumbai, India used many similar diplomatic “safety valves” to the point that few remain today in the event of another crisis.

Washington could encourage New Delhi to reinstitute similar mechanisms and identify new

ones. Obvious points of departure include organizing an expanded range of people-to-people interactions, restarting working-level dialogues on technical issues such as trade and communication, and identifying multilateral settings—not limited to the United Nations—where India could take its case to the international community in the event of another attack. That said, the potential value of these safety valves must be balanced against the prospect that they could also inspire terrorists to launch a spoiler attack. More technical and procedural steps are less likely to provoke extremist groups than are symbolically charged actions, such as high-level summits and joint declarations.

A second lesson from the Mumbai attack is that crisis communication between Indian and Pakistani governments is inadequate. Washington served as an essential, trusted interlocutor and intelligence transmission belt for both sides. Before the next crisis, Washington could work to improve communication, particularly between civilian officials. As another means to calm nerves or counsel restraint in the midst of a crisis, Washington could leverage the influence of—and coordinate its diplomacy with—other major regional and global players, including China, Great Britain, and Saudi Arabia. Building the technical means and political consensus to convene a small Indo- Pakistani crisis contact group on short notice would enhance U.S. capacity in this respect.

Over the years, Washington has compiled a standard tool kit to improve crisis stability between India and Pakistan. U.S.-sponsored track-two dialogues between Indian and Pakistani political and military leaders have emphasized the danger of inadvertent or accidental escalation beyond the nuclear threshold and the urgent need for unified command, control, and communications systems.

In spite of these and related efforts, communications between Pakistan’s chief policymakers appear to have suffered multiple breakdowns after Mumbai. One breakdown led to the sacking of the national security adviser by the prime minister; another created ill-timed confusion over whether the nation’s chief intelligence official would travel to New Delhi for consultations.

Divisions between civil and military leaders continue to plague Pakistani politics and are unlikely to be resolved soon. If Pakistan’s president and army chief choose not to coordinate their decision processes, no technical solution or institutional mechanism will fully fill the void. At the margins, however, Washington could make inroads by sharing its concerns with Pakistan’s army and political leaders and supporting the creation of an apolitical civil-military crisis-management cell to improve information-sharing and coordination in the heat of Indo-Pakistani tensions.

Aside from building diplomatic and coordination mechanisms, Washington could also prepare tools for coercing and inducing New Delhi and Islamabad away from military escalation. Granted, the recent U.S. track record on this score is mixed. In instances when either side felt its supreme national security to be at risk—such as during the 1998 nuclear tests—no combination of U.S. carrots or sticks could shake New Delhi or Islamabad from its path. On the other hand, Washington played an important role in walking back conflicts on several occasions, including in 1990, 1999, and 2001–2002, in each instance placing pressure on Islamabad and convincing New Delhi that many of its core demands were better achieved through diplomacy than through force. Yet Washington’s ability to induce restraint by making promises to New Delhi may be ending, as New Delhi believes that past guarantees have yielded too little. Washington would improve its negotiating position with India’s leadership if Islamabad convicts those responsible for prior attacks. Washington’s ability to threaten sanctions becomes more powerful the more Indian and Pakistani militaries and economies are tied to those of the United States. To the extent that India and Pakistan purchase or receive weapons systems and platforms manufactured in the United States, they become tied to U.S. suppliers for parts and technologies that could be withheld or slowed by Washington. Washington’s influence in multilateral settings also offers a potential means of coercive leverage. At present, for instance, Pakistan is especially beholden to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in which the United States has a powerful voting stake.

On the economic front, if Washington were to extend new preferential trade opportunities to Pakistan, particularly for textiles and garments, they would also offer coercive leverage in a time of crisis. Even the relatively mundane decision to revise official U.S. travel advisories can influence the behavior of U.S. investors and multinational corporations, imposing costs on Indian and Pakistani markets and mobilizing regional businessmen as advocates for stability and de-escalation. To take one step further, preparing plans for U.S. noncombatant evacuation operations in South Asia could also enhance Washington’s capacity to level credible economic threats on short notice.

In general, coercive measures are more likely to succeed with Pakistan than with India, in part because the Pakistani state depends more on military and economic assistance from the United States and its allies. Poised on the edge of bankruptcy, Pakistan may be particularly susceptible to economic diplomacy unless it perceives an immediate, existential threat from India. That said, Washington must keep in mind that coercive threats can be costly to U.S. interests. If U.S. threats jeopardize other essential aspects of cooperation with Islamabad and New Delhi, or if they undermine the basic stability of the Pakistani state, they may do more harm than good, even if they avert some degree of military escalation in the near term.

Crisis Measures

Once an Indo-Pakistani crisis starts, Washington’s policy options become more limited. One immediate U.S. goal would be to prevent rash actions by either side. Emphasizing the need for a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the terrorist attack, including support from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, is one way to introduce tactical delays. Other methods include scheduling a series of senior-level official visits to the region and calling for a special multilateral session—through the United Nations or otherwise—shortly after the attack.

If Washington judges that restraining Indian military action is possible and advisable, U.S. diplomats could begin by warning New Delhi of the economic harm to come from military action and reminding India’s leaders of the costs and frustrations associated with the military standoff of 2001–2002. The U.S. government could escalate its pressure by publicly calling for restraint, seeking a congressional resolution that lends bipartisan weight to the message, and encouraging U.S. business leaders with operations and partners in India to express similar concerns through their own private channels. These messages could be combined with a forceful reiteration of Washington’s intent to assist India’s counterterror operations in the future and to press for the elimination of Pakistan-based terrorist groups.

If the initial terrorist attack is particularly egregious and Washington perceives that Indian retaliation is unavoidable, it has at least two fallback options to limit the escalation of Indo-Pakistani violence. First, the United States could identify the sorts of Indian military operations that are least likely to prompt a significant counterattack from Islamabad, such as surgical airstrikes on a small number of terrorist camps away from urban centers. Washington could privately inform India’s leadership that if it stays within these bounds, the United States would provide diplomatic support against international pressure and prevail upon Pakistan to curb its own response. If available, Washington could also share intelligence about specific terrorist camps that are located away from cities and less likely to spark a direct clash with the Pakistani military. Washington could couple these inducements with threats of diplomatic, economic, and military sanctions if India undertakes more expansive retaliatory actions that target Pakistani population centers or leadership and unduly jeopardize U.S. military and counterterror missions in the region.

If Washington judges that New Delhi is preparing a retaliatory strike that threatens the stability of the Pakistani state, raises an acute risk of nuclear war, or immediately threatens U.S. operations in the region, it has a second option of last resort. To stay the Indian hand, Washington could once again promise to pressure Pakistan into taking more aggressive action against terrorist groups operating on its soil. But to win New Delhi’s confidence this time, Washington would need to deliver a new, more menacing ultimatum to Islamabad: “Deal with the terrorists or we will.” To make this threat credible, the United States would have to determine that (a) it has the military capacity to address Indian concerns by eliminating important terrorist cells, perhaps using drone strikes or commando raids, and (b) the costs that such an ultimatum would impose on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship are less than the costs that would be imposed by India’s military operations. Only under the most extreme circumstances could this option serve U.S. interests.


The United States has a clear interest in preventing an Indo-Pakistani crisis. To defend against a terrorist attack, Washington should share information and technical tools with India and work with Pakistan to clamp down on materials that might be used in weapons of mass destruction.

Washington should also press Islamabad to accelerate the judicial process against the Mumbai plotters and crack down on militants throughout Pakistan. If U.S. cooperation with Islamabad proves inadequate, Washington should develop its own capacity to infiltrate or attack these groups.

Over time, U.S. assistance and public diplomacy could begin to address the socioeconomic roots of Pakistani extremism, but they cannot provide a short term substitute for counterterror efforts.

Washington should not impose itself in Indo-Pakistani negotiations, but should quietly advise both sides to try to insulate their diplomacy from the political backlash sought by terrorist spoilers.

To limit prospects for military escalation, the United States should identify new diplomatic “safety valves” for New Delhi and work to improve the quality of crisis communication. Washington should pre-assemble an Indo-Pakistani crisis contact group that includes states with regional influence.

To enhance its coercive leverage, Washington should expand its business and military ties

with both countries. To avoid breakdowns in Pakistani crisis management, the United States should share its concerns with Islamabad and offer its technical support for a coordination cell.

If another Indo-Pakistani crisis unfolds, Washington should introduce tactical delays to prevent rash actions. The United States must be prepared to assess the likelihood and acceptability of an Indian military reprisal and should either forestall it though tough diplomacy or accept less desirable fallback options. In a worst-case scenario, Washington would have to choose between accepting an Indian strike on Pakistan and leveling its own coercive military threats against Islamabad.

Under any circumstances, the United States should try to avoid policies that are likely to rule out effective working relationships with Islamabad and New Delhi once the crisis is over; both states will remain essential to U.S. regional and global interests over the long run.

Mission Statement of the Center for Preventive Action

The Center for Preventive Action (CPA) seeks to help prevent, defuse, or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention. It does so by creating a forum in which representatives of governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, corporations, and civil society can gather to develop operational and timely strategies for promoting peace in specific conflict situations. The center focuses on conflicts in countries or regions that affect U.S. interests, but may be otherwise overlooked; where prevention appears possible; and when the resources of the Council on Foreign Relations can make a difference. The center does this by

Issuing Council Special Reports to evaluate and respond rapidly to developing conflict situations and formulate timely, concrete policy recommendations that the U.S. government, international community,and local actors can use to limit the potential for deadly violence.

Engaging the U.S. government and news media in conflict prevention efforts. CPA staff members meet with administration officials and members of Congress to brief on CPA’s findings and recommendations; facilitate contacts between U.S. officials and important local and external actors; and raise awareness among journalists of potential flashpoints around the globe.

Building networks with international organizations and institutions to complement and leverage the Council’s established influence in the U.S. policy arena and increase the impact of CPA’s recommendations.

Providing a source of expertise on conflict prevention to include research, case studies, and lessons learned from past conflicts that policymakers and private citizens can use to prevent or mitigate future deadly conflicts.