Increasing militant activity in western Pakistan poses three key national security threats: an increased potential for major attacks against the United States itself; a growing threat to Pakistani stability; and a hindrance of U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. This report addresses this issue at length. It also describes the recent upsurge of militant activity on the Pakistani side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, as well as the general political climates of Pakistan and Afghanistan and their relationships with the United States.
Since October 2001, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs, or roadside bombs) have been responsible for many of the more than 2,000 combat deaths in Iraq, and 178 combat deaths in Afghanistan. IEDs are hidden behind signs and guardrails, under roadside debris, or inside animal carcasses, and encounters with these bombs are becoming more numerous and deadly in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Department of Defense (DOD) efforts to counter IEDs have proven only marginally effective, and U.S. forces continue to be exposed to the threat at military checkpoints, or whenever on patrol. IEDs are increasingly being used in Afghanistan, and DOD reportedly is concerned that they might eventually be more widely used by other insurgents and terrorists worldwide.
After several years of relative peace in Central Asia and southern Russia, Islamic extremist movements have become more active in Russia and in Central and South Asia, threatening stability in the region. Although numerous factors might account for the upsurge in activity, several of these movements appear to have connections to the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These linkages raise questions about whether the United States, as part of a broader effort to promote peace and stability in the region, should continue to engage the Taliban regime, or strongly confront it. This report will be updated as events warrant.