Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pakistan - Nukes More Vulnerable?

NPR had a good story this morning on the security of Pakistan's nukes -
For years, Pakistan has been fearful that in a crisis, the U.S. might try to seize its nuclear bombs. The bin Laden raid has led some in Pakistan to advocate dispersing the nuclear weapons to numerous secret sites. But greater dispersal can lead to greater insecurity, with more people knowing about hiding more bombs in more places. [Ed: MIL-INT emphasis added]
AFPAK Daily Brief has a related round up

The Post reported Wednesday on allegations made by A.Q. Khan, considered the founder of Pakistan's nuclear program, that North Korean officials bribed senior Pakistani army officers during the late 1990s in return for nuclear technology (Post). Khan, who has not been allowed to speak to Western investigators, provided a letter to journalist Simon Henderson (available here - [this looks bogus to MIL INT - too specific in naming names and numbers]) that Khan says proves the payment of more than $3 million in cash and jewels to the former chief of Pakistan's army Gen. Jehangir Karamat, as well as retired Lt. Gen. Zulfiqar Khan (Post, AP, Reuters, CBS). Pakistan's interior ministry took Khan to the Islamabad High Court this week, accusing him of "not cooperating" with Pakistan's government in making his security arrangements (ET).

MIL-INT's judgement is its only a matter of time before terrorists in Pakistan go for a nuke site -  if they can penetrate GHQ, ISI HQ, blow up high end P-3s deep inside a major military base - it does not take long for them to work out how to strike a nuke site.
This does not mean they will get their hands on a bomb necessarily, but as the above point makes clear the number of opportunities could be expanding. A strike on a facility would be enough to impact the polity and people in Pakistan and elsewhere. Because of this, it would probably be a misjudgement to attack a nuke site because it would push the people to support the government and push the government to take more robust actions to protect both power plants and weapons systems. But fanatical terrorists don't always take the long view. This is not to say they are irrational, although they may appear so to outsiders, they follow their own logic. Sometimes that logic argues for action now over a greater impact later. Like states, non state actors can make misjudgements. The stakes are clearly astronomical and yet MIL INT is sure that Pakistan has not averted its gaze to the east.

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