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Pakistan's Enviro "Stress" As "Threat Multiplier"

What are the geopolitical implications of the massive flooding in Pakistan? We touched on many issues related to that in our segment Wednesday (listen to it here). Of course, helping the flood victims is the top priority now. But for a sense of the U.S. strategic view, see this new Congressional Research Service report, which was just made public by the Federation of American Scientists. Here’s an excerpt from the summary:

The creation, or expansion, of ungoverned areas, or areas of limited control by the government of Pakistan, is viewed as not in U.S. strategic interests given the recent history of such areas being used by the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups as a base for operations against U.S. interests in the region. In this sense, environmental stress is viewed as a potential “threat multiplier” to existing sources of conflict.

Environmental factors could also expand the ranks of the dispossessed in Pakistan, which could lead to greater recruitment for radical Islamist groups operating in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Larger numbers of dispossessed people in Pakistan could also destabilize the current political regime. This could add pressure on the Pakistani political system and possibly add impetus to a return to military rule or a more bellicose posture towards India. This issue has added significant importance to regional security and American interests in Afghanistan.

The potential for environmental factors to stoke conflict between the nuclear armed states of India and Pakistan is also a concern. These two historical enemies have repeatedly fought across their international frontier and have yet to resolve their territorial dispute over Kashmir. Further, a longstanding dispute over cross-border water resource sharing between India and Pakistan has resurfaced, possibly exacerbating existing tensions between the two states. Should the two countries wish, however, this dispute also offers a renewed opportunity for cooperation, as has been seen in past negotiations.

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