On Friday, CNN carried an alarmist headline that read, “Sources: U.S. assessing Pakistan nukes if Musharraf falls.” The implication here is that Musharraf’s grip on power is beginning to wane and is cause for concern all around. From the article:
U.S. military intelligence officials are urgently assessing how secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would be in the event President Gen. Pervez Musharraf were replaced as the nation’s leader, CNN has learned…
Three U.S. sources have independently confirmed details of the intelligence review to CNN but would not allow their names to be used because of the sensitivity of the matter…
The current review is a result of recent developments in that country, including the prospect that Musharraf could still declare a national emergency that would give him sweeping powers…
The United States has full knowledge about the location of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, according to the U.S. assessment.
But the key questions, officials say, are what would happen and who would control the weapons in the hours after any change in government in case Musharraf were killed or overthrown. [Link]
p>Although this sounds like an escalation or something truly new and fantastic, it’s not. In the month following Sept. 11th, 2001, Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker wrote a provocative article titled “Watching the Warheads.” In THAT article there were many more revealing details (if his sources were reliable) than are revealed in this newest blurb by CNN.
… an Ã©lite Pentagon undercover unit–trained to slip into foreign countries and find suspected nuclear weapons, and disarm them if necessary–has explored plans for an operation inside Pakistan….
…operating under Pentagon control with C.I.A. assistance, whose mission it is to destroy nuclear facilities, past and present government officials told me. “They’re good,” one American said. “If they screw up, they die. They’ve had good success in proving the negative”–that is, in determining that suspected facilities were not nuclear-related…
The American team is apparently getting help from Israel’s most successful special-operations unit, the storied Sayeret Matkal, also known as Unit 262, a deep-penetration unit that has been involved in assassinations, the theft of foreign signals-intelligence materials, and the theft and destruction of foreign nuclear weaponry
A senior military officer, after confirming that intense planning for the possible “exfiltration” of Pakistani warheads was under way, said that he had been concerned not about a military coup but about a localized insurrection by a clique of I.S.I. officers in the field who had access to a nuclear storage facility. “The Pakistanis have just as much of a vested interest as we do in making sure that that stuff is looked after, because if they”–I.S.I. dissidents–”throw one at India, they’re all cooked meat…”
Intelligence officials told me they believe that, in case of an imminent threat, the Indian military’s special commando unit is preparing to make its own move on the Pakistani arsenal. [Link]
Reportedly, one of the ways in which Pakistan has previously helped to reassure the West is by keeping their nuclear weapons in non-assembled form (although it wouldn’t take much to finish assembly):
Pakistani authorities claim that their nuclear weapons are not assembled. They maintain that the fissile cores are stored separately from the non-nuclear explosives packages, and that the warheads are stored separately from the delivery systems. In a 2001 report, the Defense Department contends that “Islamabad’s nuclear weapons are probably stored in component form” and that “Pakistan probably could assemble the weapons fairly quickly.” However, no one has been able to ascertain the validity of Pakistan’s assurances about their nuclear weapons security. [Link]
p>Hopefully now we all know more about this issue than what was in the CNN blurb. Also, hopefully a government hit squad doesn’t take me out for talking about this stuff on SM. Ok fine. I did see the Bourne Ultimatum this week. So what.