Monday, May 30, 2011

ISI and Attacks in Pakistan - Confidence in Nuke C2?

The WashPost reports on Pakistani security and how it has been compromised.
The ISI is believed to have an entire branch — known as the “S Wing” — devoted to relationships with militant organizations. Some analysts believe the wing operates with relative independence, whether by design or default, that gives top brass plausible deniability when cooperation between the spy service and insurgents comes to light.
The story follows in the wake of the attack on the Karachi naval base where between 4 and 6 terrorists tied down security forces for 16 hours in a shootout that claimed 10 people and 2 US made P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft. The Karachi attack is the most significant against a military target since the 2009 attacks on GHQ and a mosque used by military leaders in Rawalpindi.

The evidence of weakness in security raise valid questions about Pakistan's control of its nuclear arsenal. NPR reports:
The navy base is just 15 miles away from a suspected nuclear weapons storage site. The sophistication of the attack has renewed concerns about the vulnerability of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Pakistan has anywhere from 70 to 100 nuclear weapons, and the number is increasing, says Paul Kerr, a nonproliferation analyst at the Congressional Research Service. Kerr says the assessment from the U.S. intelligence community is that the weapons are secure.
 A related Bloomberg story provided an assessment from a Pakistani University professor
“What’s so surprising for me is that how skillfully and tactically these attacks are carried out and there seems nothing out of their reach,” said Rashid Khan, a professor of international relations at the University of Sargodha in central Pakistan. “I don’t think they can take control of our nuclear arsenals, but they can certainly try to stage a similar attack on such installations that we have seen yesterday.”
The Pakistani proliferator AQ Khan was recently interviewed and gave his assurances that all was safe with Pakistan's nuclear weapons
These weapons are lying in tunnels and safe houses where no one can access them, except very few, relevant people.
The military and not the civilian government control the weapons. If AQ Khan is the best defender of the program they have, we all have a problem.

 A Taliban spokesman reassured the world
The Taliban have no plans to attack Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, the TTP organisation's spokesman has declared... He added that the Taliban had no intention of changing that fact. The Taliban, after all, aim to take over Pakistan and its weapons, the paper said. (emphasis added).
This is a catastrophe in the making. Lax security, a constant drumbeat of militant attacks nation wide, some targeted against top military and intelligence facilities and personnel, a deeply penetrated military and security apparatus, and a nation riven by deep grievances internally and externally. If 4-6 operatives can tie down a major military base for 16 hours, any assurances on nuclear C2 need to be seriously re-examined.

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