By Anwar Iqbal
WASHINGTON: US intelligence agencies have reported that increased violence, massive energy and food shortages and political instability threatens to destabilise Pakistan.
The report, known as the National Intelligence Estimate, is collectively produced by 16 US intelligence agencies including CIA and the FBI, and is presented to the US president and Congress.
The McClatchy group, which publishes more than 100 newspapers across the US, claims to have acquired a copy of the report which is to be presented to the administration and lawmakers later this month.
The report, published in McClatchy newspapers, quotes US intelligence officials who prepared the NIE as saying that their draft describes the situation in Pakistan as ‘very bad’ and ‘very bleak,’ and it portrays Pakistan as being ‘on the edge.’
It says the economic crisis in Pakistan has forced millions of people into poverty, which experts fear make them ripe for Islamic extremists to recruit.
It also points to the rising cost of wheat, rice and milk over the last year. Economists have warned that prices will increase further if Pakistan defaults on its foreign debt.
Prior to Pakistan’s current economic crisis, one-third of the country’s 56 million residents lived below the poverty line. Millions more are said to have fallen into economic hardship.
The US intelligence report says that the dire situation inside Pakistan is due, in part, to an al Qaeda backed insurgency and the Pakistan Army’s unwillingness to cooperate with the US and crackdown on the terrorist organization.
The estimate says that ‘the Islamist insurgency based in the Federally Administered Tribal Area bordering Afghanistan — the suspected safe haven of Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants — is intensifying.’
National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan
This year’s intelligence reports are also being prepared to assist a new administration on the resources needed to continue military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and for fighting terrorism in Fata.
The Afghanistan estimate warns that additional American troops are urgently needed there and that Islamic extremists who enjoy safe haven in Pakistan pose a growing threat to the US-backed government of Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai.
Earlier this month, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that without immediate economic and political stability in Afghanistan the security situation will continue to deteriorate.
‘The trends across the board are not going in the right direction,’ Admiral Mullen told reporters ‘It will be tougher next year unless we get at all these challenges.’
Gen. David McKiernan, the top US commander in Afghanistan has warned that a shortage of troops means the situation in Afghanistan ‘might get worse before it gets better.’
‘We’re in a very tough fight,’ Gen. McKiernan said.
The NIE endorsed these views. It suggests that without significant and swift progress on all three fronts — which they suggest is uncertain at best — the US could find itself facing a growing threat from al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups, said one of the officials.