Concerns Grow Over Risk Of Pakistans Nukes Falling Into Terrorist Hands
(N.T.A.R.C.) There is growing concern over the possibility of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into terrorist hands. Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto addressed the issue yesterday and U.S. security advisers are urging President Bush to prepare to use an elite military force, if necessary, to seize the weapons.
Bhutto – Nuke Terror Risk
Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto raised the spectre of al-Qa’ida-linked Islamic militants seizing control of the country’s nuclear weapons yesterday as she warned of the need to overcome the Taliban insurgency.
Referring to the full-scale conflict between the Pakistan army and Islamic fighters who have turned the Swat valley, a premier tourist resort only 150km north of the capital Islamabad, into a no-go area, Ms Bhutto said: “Whatever is happening in Swat and the tribal area today, that can come to Islamabad tomorrow.”
The world, she said, “will not look on as spectators if Kahuta falls into their hands”.
Kahuta, close to Islamabad, is where the nuclear facility founded by rogue nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan is located and is the heart of the country’s nuclear arsenal.
The complex is frequently targeted by suicide bombers.
There are indications of rapidly growing concern in Washington and elsewhere about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons as the political turmoil in the nation intensifies.
On a campaign visit to the heart of the North West Frontier Province, Ms Bhutto vowed to use economic as well as military means to defuse Pakistan’s pro-Taliban insurgency.
She warned that “foreign forces” could invade unless the Government curbs spreading militancy – referring to US and NATO forces operating on the Afghan side of the border.
Some reports have indicated the Bush administration could deploy US forces to guard Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal if the political turmoil and violence in the country worsen.
President Bush Urged To Prepare To Seize Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal
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The man who devised the Bush administration’s Iraq troop surge has urged the US to consider sending elite troops to Pakistan to seize its nuclear weapons if the country descends into chaos.
In a series of scenarios drawn up for Pakistan, Frederick Kagan, a former West Point military historian, has called for the White House to consider various options for an unstable Pakistan.
These include: sending elite British or US troops to secure nuclear weapons capable of being transported out of the country and take them to a secret storage depot in New Mexico or a “remote redoubt” inside Pakistan; sending US troops to Pakistan’s north-western border to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida; and a US military occupation of the capital Islamabad, and the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan if asked for assistance by a fractured Pakistan military, so that the US could shore up President Pervez Musharraf and General Ashfaq Kayani, who became army chief this week.
“These are scenarios and solutions. They are designed to test our preparedness. The United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss,” Kagan, who is with the American Enterprise Institute, a thinktank with strong ideological ties to the Bush administration, told the Guardian. “We need to think now about our options in Pakistan,”
US war games weigh options to secure Pak’s nuke arsenal
The Bush administration has conducted several secret war exercises in recent years to examine various options and scenarios under which Pakistan’s nuclear weapons can be kept in a safe custody, according to a leading US daily.
The Washington Post said in a report on Sunday that such exercises, which have been conducted without official sponsorship from any government agency, apparently due to the sensitivity of its subject, are aimed at exploring strategies for securing Pakistan’s nuke arsenal if the country’s political institutions and military safeguards began to fall apart.
These war games try to find out that how many troops might be required for a military intervention in Pakistan; could Pakistani nuclear bunkers be isolated by saturating the surrounding areas with tens of thousands of high-powered mines, dropped from the air and packed with anti-tank and anti-personnel munitions; and the possibility that whether such a move would only worsen the security of Pakistan’s arsenal.
However, former US Ambassador to Pakistan Robert B. Oakley feels that although officials have confidence in the current security measures, but the more they examine the risks, the more they realize that there are no good answers.
“Everybody’s scrambling on this,” Oakley was quoted as saying.
A participant of the last year’s exercise said the conclusion of that war game was that there were no palatable ways to forcibly ensure the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons — and that even studying scenarios for intervention could worsen the risks by undermining US-Pakistani cooperation.
“It’s an unbelievably daunting problem,” said this participant, a former Pentagon official, on the condition of anonymity.
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