Showing posts with label finance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label finance. Show all posts

Saturday, February 14, 2009

THE global economic crisis has replaced al-Qa'ida as the greatest threat to Western security

Financial crisis now main threat, says US | The Australian
THE global economic crisis has replaced al-Qa'ida as the greatest threat to Western security, according to the new US intelligence chief.

In his first threat briefing to the US Congress, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said yesterday that the economic crisis risked creating "regime-threatening insecurity" in countries that have been worst hit by the downturn, such as Pakistan. He described the downturn as "the primary near-term security concern" for the US.

"The longer it takes for the (economic) recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to US strategic interests," he said.

The economic crisis left a number of important US allies at risk of becoming unable to "fully meet their defence and humanitarian obligations".

"Statistical modelling shows that economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one- to two-year period," Mr Blair said.

About a quarter of the world's countries, notably in Europe and the former Soviet Union, had experienced "low-level instability", including government changes and even fast-growing China and India had taken a hit.

Mr Blair also warned that corruption within Afghan President Hamid Karzai's Government had now "exceeded tolerable levels" and was contributing to the rising influence and popularity of Islamic militants.

As US special envoy to South Asia Richard Holbrooke met Mr Karzai and other leaders in the capital yesterday to discuss a new anti-terror strategy, Mr Blair said the Afghan and Pakistan governments had lost ground to militants in the past year because they had failed to address corruption, mounting economic hardships and lack of basic services.

The assessment reflects the view of US President Barack Obama, who has described the two countries as the main front in the war on terror, and is understood to be on the verge of sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.

"Kabul's inability to build effective, honest and loyal provincial and district-level institutions capable of providing basic services and sustainable licit livelihoods erodes its popular legitimacy and increases the influence of warlords and the Taliban," Mr Blair said. Mr Blair said progress had been made against al-Qa'ida, describing the deaths of four leaders in Pakistan's tribal areas as a blow "as damaging to the group as any since the fall of the Taliban in 2001".

The organisation was now "less capable and effective", but far from beaten, he said, adding that al-Qa'ida's use of Pakistan's tribal areas as a base for terror training meant the security situations of Afghanistan and Pakistan remained linked.

The Obama administration flagged its intention last month to treat the growing security crisis in the two countries as a single issue and this week dispatched its new envoy to both countries to begin a strategy review.

Mr Holbrooke spent three days in Pakistan this week meeting civilian and military leaders, who appealed for increased military and development aid to fight the militant insurgency.

Mr Holbrooke is understood to have delivered a message from Mr Obama to the Afghan and Pakistan leaderships that new aid would be contingent on greater co-operation in the fight against a jihadist build-up in the border regions.

Mr Blair echoed that sentiment."No improvement is possible in Afghanistan without Pakistan taking control of its border areas," he said.

Mr Holbrooke is due to meet Indian government officials in New Delhi over the weekend to discuss progress in the investigations into last November's Mumbai bomb attack, which claimed the lives of close to 180 people.

Mr Holbrooke's visit to the region is widely believed to have prompted Pakistan's admission on Thursday that the Mumbai attacks were launched and partly planned on Pakistani soil.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Pakistan had already arrested six of eight Pakistani suspects identified during a government probe into the attacks and was seeking further information from New Delhi so it could proceed with prosecutions.