An influential think-tank has rated a conflict with Pakistan as among the top potential threats facing the United States in 2012, but downgraded the potential for military escalation between Pakistan and India.
A survey by the Washington based Council on Foreign Relations released on Friday elevated the risk of US conflict with Pakistan triggered by an attack or counter-terrorism operation amid high tensions in 2011 following the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
But a severe Indo-Pak crisis that carries risk of military escalation, triggered by major terror attack was downgraded from the top to Tier Two contingencies affecting countries of strategic importance to the United States that do not involve a mutual defence treaty commitment.
The Council's Centre for Preventive Action anonymously surveyed US officials and experts to compile an annual list of the most plausible conflicts for the United States in the new year.
Besides a US conflict with Pakistan, the 2012 list elevated several contingencies to the top tier of risks: an intensified euro crisis, which could plunge the US back into recession; the threat of a cyberattack; and a Saudi instability, which would threaten global oil supplies.
Threats that remained at the top of the list from last year included a potential incident between the United States and China involving US or allied forces, internal instability in Pakistan, intensified nuclear crises with Iran or North Korea, and a spillover of drug-related violence from Mexico.
"The United States has a dismal record of forecasting instability and conflicts. Presently there is no systematic US government process linking forecasting to contingency planning. This survey is intended to meet that need," said CFR fellow for conflict prevention Micah Zenko, who conducted the survey.