Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2010 threats

Guest post by Jared Stancombe 

Jared Stancombe, a 2009 graduate of Indiana University, is currently an analyst for a U.S. government agency responsible for national security. He is also in the officer selection process for the U.S. Marine Corps. He lives in Washington, D.C. 

Ed. note: This is Jared's fifth guest post at The Reaction. His first three were on Afghanistan and the Afghan War. You can find them here, here, and here. His fourth, which you can find here, was on airline security and information sharing -- MJWS


With the turn of the decade into 2010, many Americans are hopeful with respect to what the new decade will bring. However, those within the national security and defense apparata are looking to resolve the current conflicts and crises while forecasting those to come. Here is my take on what may happen in 2010:

Iraq: U.S. troops will begin leaving Iraq permanently, leaving behind only military elements that can directly support the expansion of national security forces. However, civilian elements may remain to assist the government in building the economy and public institutions. In December 2009, there were no combat-related deaths in the entire country. Friends who have served in Iraq or who are currently in Iraq are completely confident that the current Iraqi regime can exist independently of further U.S. occupation. With the focus currently on Afghanistan, al Qaeda and other foreign fighter groups who were responsible for most of the "post-war" fighting have moved into the mountains of Pakistan and into other unstable parts of the world, such as Yemen. What instability that remains in Iraq is mostly internal, despite recent bombings.

Yemen: Without immediate international assistance, Yemen could become another Somalia, with terrorists freely operating within its borders. The U.S. and its allies should devote substantial defense, development, and economic assistance to the Yemeni regime before it is too late. With the Christmas 2009 airline terrorist attack, U.S. sights have also been turned on Yemen. The U.S. will never send troops to Yemen, yet there could be air strikes from U.S. Predator drones and naval aircraft or AC-130 strikes on suspected terrorist encampments.

Afghanistan: Afghanistan may turn for the better or for the worse. Is 30,000 troops enough? What strategy will actually be adapted? Will U.S. forces pull out of the rural areas to protect the urban ones? 2010 is critical for success or failure in Afghanistan, and the unstable regime may be going through a phase which could render President Hamid Karzai powerless due to rampant corruption. Afghans may have had enough with Karzai and may seek to undermine him, to the detriment of U.S. efforts in the country.

Without a stable and sustainable political solution, military counterinsurgency efforts may prove futile. Afghanistan may have no solution and resources may be once again redirected, as they were for the Iraq War, if another threat from another failed state succeeds with a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

The impending spring offensive by the Taliban once weather conditions improve could determine how much momentum ISAF forces truly have. U.S. casualties in the spring and summer could reach record levels as ISAF forces attempt to violently and forcefully squash the insurgency in the southern and eastern regions of the country.

Pakistan: 2010 is also critical for Pakistan, as its military bravely fights the Taliban in devastating combat. However, can the Pakistani military succeed? Will Pakistan remain stable? The stability of Pakistan is critical to U.S. success in Afghanistan, and an emergency situation may develop that requires U.S. action. Air strikes from Predator drones may rise as Pakistani intelligence works better with the CIA and Air Force on targeting high-ranking Taliban and al Qaeda officials. However, Pakistan may become the focus of the war against al-Qaeda and diplomatic efforts may be taken to place U.S. special operations forces in the country in a covert capacity.

United States: Domestic terrorism will quite possibly increase, with right-wing extremists feeling disenfranchised with an African-American president and Democratic majorities in Congress. We may see more attacks against government workers and interests. With the conservative media stating that an apocalypse is imminent, fearful and dangerous people may increasingly act out violently, in particular against government buildings and interests.

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