India-Pakistan conflict to cause a severe crisis: US think-tank

A top US think-tank warned the incoming Obama administration on Friday not to allow a military conflict between India and Pakistan as it would generate a grave and severe crisis.The Washington-based Brookings Institution also warned that a failure against the Taliban in Afghanistan would create serious problems for the United States and the international community.“A complete state failure in Pakistan would generate a grave and severe crisis, as would any serious military confrontation between India and Pakistan,” said a memo the think-tank has written for the Obama administration which assumes control on Jan 20.The “memo to the president” by Brookings security expert Vanda Felbab-Brown painted a bleak picture of a growing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, an Al Qaeda stronghold in that country’s mountainous border with Pakistan and of troubling Pakistani political and economic weakness.
Across the border in Afghanistan, failure against the Taliban would indicate how limited the United States and the international community can be in helping countries achieve security and development,” it said.

The memo reminded the Obama team that they needed to match security measures with efforts to build the rule of law and achieve sustained economic development in Afghanistan, and to boost security in Pakistan.
Mr Obama vowed during his election campaign to boost US troop levels in Afghanistan, convince Nato allies to increase their troop contributions and to press for better governance in Afghanistan.He also threatened to hit alleged terrorist targets inside Pakistan if the Pakistani government failed to remove them.There are 65,000 international troops in Afghanistan, including more than 30,000 from the United States, which plans to send 20,000 additional troops.The memo urged Mr Obama to step up counterinsurgency aid and training for the Pakistani military and undertake military action against major jihadist targets in Fata. But she also urged him to avoid civilian casualties.“The war in Afghanistan is not being won,” the memo warned. “Tensions are running high between India and Pakistan … Your administration will need to deal urgently with many interrelated dimensions of the crisis” in South Asia.
Ms Felbab-Brown noted that the Afghan people were questioning the performances of the government of President Hamid Karzai and were “deeply troubled by the growing insecurity, the weakness and corruption of the government, the rise in criminality and the lack of rule of law.” Across the border in Pakistan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda were now threatening the security of Pakistan itself, she warned.“The current tensions between India and Pakistan easily could escalate into a proxy war in Kashmir or Afghanistan, if not into a direct military confrontation,” she warned.
“Highly dangerous in itself, an escalation would—as before—divert Pakistan’s military resources away from its border with Afghanistan and weaken the government’s resolve to take on the jihadist groups.”The author advised the Obama administration to seek multilateral engagement with Pakistan, noting that the Pakistani civilian leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari had repeatedly indicated its willingness to reach accommodation with India and counter the terrorist threats facing both countries. The memo has the following recommendations for the Obama administration:
Increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, seeking a similar contribution from US allies and pressing the Afghan government to meet more of the needs of its population and tackle corruption and the opium trade.
It also urges an increase in non-military aid to Pakistan while holding it accountable for disrupting Taliban safe havens and providing security along the border with Afghanistan.
The memo notes that the Biden-Lugar bill that would commit $15 billion in development aid to Pakistan over 10 years provides a vehicle for assistance. While beefing up economic assistance, the Obama administration needs to stress to Pakistan that jihadist terrorism now threatens its own security and that combating terrorism is in its own national interest.

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