In recent weeks the United States has intensified its military operations along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It seems the US is taking advantage of the window of opportunity created by Pervez Musharraf's resignation to target al-Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in Pakistan. Cross-border skirmishes between US troops and Islamic militants have been grabbing headlines, further complicating an already tense situation.
Pakistan's newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari has only been in office for a few weeks and already he is a target - both for political opponents and terrorist groups. He is the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated by al-Qaeda in December of 2007. Zardari has inherited a nation in the midst of an economic and security crisis, and there has been speculation that he may not be able to hold the government together.
Pakistan is on the brink of bankruptcy. Pakistan's cash reserves have dropped to dangerously low levels. The rupee has lost more than 20 percent of its value since the beginning of the year and the rate of inflation is now 25 percent. The cost of food has risen dramatically and Pakistan is having trouble getting loans to pay for imports and to keep its economy afloat.
Meanwhile the security situation in Pakistan is rapidly deteriorating. On Monday at least 20 people were killed and about 40 others were injured in a suicide bombing targeting a government official. The attack comes two weeks after a deadly bombing at the Marriott Hotel in the capital city of Islamabad, in which 50 people were killed and another 250 were injured.
Terrorists Planning Attack
Experts say that al-Qaeda may be attempting to exploit the political chaos in Pakistan in order to acquire nuclear materials. There have also been reports that al-Qaeda may be planning another attack on US targets leading up to the elections.
CIA Director Michael Hayden recently stated that: "There is no greater national security threat facing the United States than al-Qaeda and its associates." Hayden also said that although Iran and North Korea both have the capability to produce nuclear weapons, al-Qaeda is the CIA's top nuclear concern because it is most likely to use them.
It is believed that al-Qaeda may be stepping up its efforts to develop materials for a "dirty bomb" - in which conventional explosives are fitted with radioactive material. The detonation of such a device in a city like London or New York would cause widespread panic and chaos, even though the area of contamination would be relatively small. According to the UK's Daily Telegraph, at least one plot has been uncovered involving Pakistani-based terrorists planning to use nuclear material against a major European target. However the details of their plans remain classified.
• Rise of Islam - Strategic Trends
• Poll: US Military Seen as Threat to Pakistan - Reuters
• 20 in Pakistan Die in Bombing - Washington Post
• Afghans Refugees Flee Pakistan War Zone - AP
• Pakistan Facing Bankruptcy - Telegraph
• The Sword of Allah - 66/40 Radio Broadcast - Listen Free!