Afghanistan and Beyond

LISA SIMEONE: India says it shot down an unmanned Pakistani spy plane today over the disputed border region of Kashmir. Pakistan says it had no spy planes there. Tensions between the two countries remain high, with thousands of troops massed at their border. U.S. officials worry that a war between India and Pakistan could affect ongoing military action in Afghanistan. With the Afghanistan mission now largely focused on the hunt for Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, what’s next in the war on terror? Joining us by phone is Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution. Michael, how could a war between Pakistan and India affect the war on terrorism?

MICHAEL O’HANLON: It would be a serious developement, there’s no doubt. For one thing, Pakistan, which of course as the smaller of the two countries, the smaller military, would have to redeploy a lot of the forces that are now along the Afghan border eastward toward Kashmir and toward its other borders with India. That would be the most obvious, immediate effect because it would mean that Pakistan could no longer try to cut off escape routes for any al Qaeda that are still trying to flee from Afghanistan into Pakistan or other regions from there. Secondly it would mean that the American use of Pakistani military bases in western and southern parts of Pakistan, might be needed because of course we would be vulnerable to an Indian attack and Pakistan may need those bases for its own armed operations. And then of course there are the broader political implications of what this could mean for Mr. Musharraf and his basic hold on power, especially if as I suspect Pakistan lost the war. So for a number of very serious reasons, even leaving aside the nuclear weapons issue, this could be a major development and certainly a negative one in every sense of the word.

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