A growing number of U.S. intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials have concluded that there’s little hope of preventing nuclear-armed Pakistan from disintegrating into fiefdoms controlled by Islamist warlords and terrorists.
“It’s a disaster in the making on the scale of the Iranian revolution,” said a U.S. intelligence official with long experience in Pakistan who requested anonymity.
Pakistan’s fragmentation into warlord-run fiefdoms that host al-Qaida and other terrorist groups would have grave implications for the security of its nuclear arsenal; for the U.S.-led effort to pacify Afghanistan; and for the security of India, the nearby oil-rich Persian Gulf and Central Asia, the U.S. and its allies.
“Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American Army, and the headquarters of al-Qaida sitting in two-thirds of the country which the government does not control,” said David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency consultant to the Obama administration.
“Pakistan isn’t Afghanistan, a backward, isolated, landlocked place that outsiders get interested in about once a century,” agreed the U.S. intelligence official. “It’s a developed state.”
He added: “The implications of this are disastrous for the U.S.”
The experts interviewed by McClatchy Newspapers said their views aren’t a worst case scenario, but a realistic expectation based on the militants’ gains and the failure of Pakistan’s leadership to respond.
“The place is beyond redemption,” said a Pentagon adviser who asked not to be further identified. He continued: “If you look out 10 years, I think the government will be overrun by Islamic militants.”
That pessimistic view has been bolstered by Islamabad’s surrender this week of areas outside the frontier tribal region to Pakistan’s Taliban movement and by a growing militant infiltration into the rest of the nation.