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Council on Foreign Relations Preventive Action Update
September 2011

September 19, 2011

A Pakistan-based Terrorist Attack on the United States

Stephen Tankel

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Brendan McDermid/Courtesy Reuters


Several Pakistan-based terrorist groups have the capability to strike unilaterally, or in concert with others, against the United States. If successful, such an attack would severely test an already strained U.S.-Pakistan relationship, which would have negative repercussions for the stability of the region.

In a new Contingency Planning Memorandum, Stephen Tankel outlines policy tools that U.S. officials can employ to prevent an attack and offers recommendations to increase the counterterrorism capacity of Pakistan's civilian law enforcement and intelligence agencies, restructure U.S. aid, and develop a campaign plan that accounts for a range of responses in the event of an attack.

Post-Qaddafi Instability in Libya

Daniel Serwer

In the aftermath of the fall of the Qaddafi regime, the future of Libya remains uncertain. In order to prevent a number of contingencies, Daniel Serwer recommends that the European Union lead a stabilization force in Libya. He argues that the force should fall under the purview of the United Nations, with modest participation from the African Union and the Arab League. Read more »

How New Atrocity-Prevention Steps Can Work

Andrew C. Miller, Paul B. Stares

On August 4, 2011, the Obama administration unveiled a series of measures to enhance U.S. responsiveness to the threat of mass atrocities and genocide, including the establishment of a new interagency body, the Atrocities Prevention Board. In this expert brief, Andrew C. Miller and Paul B. Stares outline the major challenges that need to be overcome in order for the prevention initiatives to be successful. Read more »


Opinion and Commentary

Learning from Qaddafi's Ouster

Micah Zenko says Western leaders can take lessons from the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi and apply them to Syria. Read more »

The Dictator's Survival Guide

Micah Zenko offers seven lessons the world's remaining autocrats can learn from Muammar al-Qaddafi's mistakes. Read more »

It's Hard to Say Goodbye to Iraq

Micah Zenko explains why the United States should withdraw from Iraq this December. Read more »

Micah Zenko: Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

In his new blog, Micah Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

Join the discussion at


Meetings and Events

On September 9, 2011, CPA hosted a roundtable meeting, "A Conversation with Riyad Mansour," with Ambassador Riyad Mansour, permanent observer of Palestine to the United Nations. Ambassador Mansour discussed the foreign and domestic policy priorities for Palestinian leadership, specifically the Palestinian Authority's upcoming bid for membership in the United Nations. Participants included officials from the United Nations, policy analysts, and members of nongovernmental organizations.

On September 7, 2011, CPA hosted a roundtable meeting, "Hitting the Homeland: Pakistan-based Terrorist Threats to the United States," with Stephen Tankel, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Shunja Nawaz, Atlantic Council. The speakers discussed Mr. Tankel's Contingency Planning Memorandum, which assesses the potential impact of an attack emanating from Pakistan and offers recommendations on how U.S. decision-makers could respond. Participants included officials from the Department of State, Congress, the White House, and members of the press.

On July 27, 2011, CPA hosted a roundtable meeting, “Eurozone Default Crisis,” with Richard Madsen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Madsen presented the case that, given the deep-seated underlying financial weakness of several European Union countries, maintaining the euro currency would be an impediment to economic growth for years to come. Participants included bankers and hedge-fund managers.

On July 11, 2011, CPA hosted a roundtable meeting, “Post-Qaddafi Instability in Libya,” with Daniel Serwer from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. This timely meeting discussed Serwer's Contingency Planning Memorandum, which argues that the United States should support the stabilization effort of Libya with the aim of helping to establish a united and sovereign state with inclusive democratic institutions.


CPA in the News

On September 11, 2011, quoted Micah Zenko in "Rise of the Drone: Long-Distance War Hallmark of Obama’s Post-9/11 Strategy" on the Obama adminstration's escalating use of drones.

On September 9, 2011, the Express Tribune cited the Contingency Planning Memorandum, A Pakistan-based Terrorist Attack on the U.S. Homeland, in "If Pakistani Terrorists Strike America."

On September 1, 2011, the Jerusalem Post quoted Micah Zenko in "Gaddafi Defiant as Libyan Rebels Meet with World Powers" on NATO's involvement in the Libyan conflict.

On August 29, 2011, cited the Contingency Planning Memorandum, A Pakistan-based Terrorist Attack on the U.S. Homeland, in "Nightmare Scenario."

On August 25, 2011, NPR quoted Micah Zenko in "What Should the U.S. Do Next in Libya?" on the Libyan Transitional National Council's planning and capability for leadership.

On August 19, 2011, CNN International Edition quoted Micah Zenko in "As Libya Conflicts Grinds On, NATO’s Mission Shifts" on the shift from a neutral intervention to protect Libyan civilians, to a military campaign supporting the Libyan rebel forces.



The Center for Preventive Action (CPA) seeks to help prevent, defuse, or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention.

Paul B. Stares
CPA Director, General John W. Vessey
Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention

Micah Zenko
Douglas Dillon Fellow


Anna Feuer
Research Associate

Helia Ighani
Research Associate

Amelia M. Wolf
Research Associate

Mitchel Hochberg

Sara Kassir


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