Pakistan was rated as the US’s second-worst ally in this year’s Terrorism Index. Pakistan was also rated the country most likely to become the next Al-Qaeda stronghold and the most likely to transfer nuclear technology to terrorists.
The index, a survey of 100 leading US foreign policy experts, indicates a growing concern in Washington circles at the inability of Pakistan’s military regime to control its Islamicist terror problem.
The survey is carried out by the liberal Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy magazine. The respondents come from a variety of ideological positions.
While Russia was rated by a third of the respondents as the ally that least serves the US national security interest, Pakistan came in second at 22%. Saudi Arabia was third at 17%. Liberals were more skeptical about Pakistan’s status as an ally than conservatives.
The report focussed on Iraq, a crisis that elicited overwhelming pessimism. Over 90% of the respondents argued the Iraq war was negatively affecting US national security and over half said the present US policy of sending in more troops was a mistake.
Despite this bleak point of view, when asked “which country is most likely to become the next Al Qaeda stronghold?” more cited Pakistan (35%) than any other country. Iraq (22%), Somalia (11%) and even troubled Afghanistan (8%) didn’t fare as badly.
Pakistan was seen as the greater menace when it came to the transfer of nuclear technology. A remarkable 74% said Pakistan is likely to be the source of such technology for terrorists in “the next three to five years.” Even perennial bad boy North Korea only notched a 42% rating and Iran a mere 31%. Liberal and moderates were far more pessimistic about “loose nukes” in Pakistan than conservatives.
The index said the combination was “a terrifying nightmare.”
There is some evidence Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf’s threat to the US that “after me, comes the nuclear Taliban” is wearing thin. Two-thirds of the respondents didn’t think Musharraf’s fall would mean nuclear-armed terrorists.
What was evident is that while over half the respondents believed the current Pakistan policy was damaging to US security, there was no consensus about the alternatives. Equal numbers supported the applying sanctions against Pakistan and providing more aid to Islamabad. The index says, “Such a muddled response underscores the puzzle that Pakistan presents to American policymakers.”
Generally, conservatives preferred to provide carrots to Pervez Musharraf, while liberals favoured sticks. But there was no clear position even within ideological groups. About 16% of the respondents were fatalistic: “There is nothing effective the US can do.”