NBC Weapons: Tall Tales And The 10,000




June 3, 2009: Pakistan, in response to criticism that its nuclear weapons are vulnerable to terrorist attack, reported that it had 10,000 security personnel safeguarding its 60 nuclear warheads,  and nuclear weapons production facilities. The U.S. has worked quietly with the Pakistani government, to improve the security of these nuclear weapons. The Pakistanis are not only concerned with Indian agents harming their nukes, but also the rather more remote possibility of criminals flitching components, or entire bombs, for sale on the international arms market. Several Islamic radical groups have standing offers of big bucks for functioning nuclear weapons.

Islamic radicals, and most Moslems, consider Pakistan's nuclear weapons to be the "Islamic nukes," since Pakistan is the only Islamic nation to build nuclear weapons so far. Islamic terrorists openly talk about how they would eagerly use a nuclear weapon in a terror attack. Most Moslems realize this could have grave consequences for the Islamic world (as in a nuclear retaliation), so most Pakistanis want their nukes kept secure. But the rampant corruption makes it easier to penetrate any security system. Add to the mix a more volatile political situation, and you have some risk of loose nukes.

The U.S. has few good options here. The main option is to stay close to the government and remain helpful with nuclear security advice. Meanwhile, the media runs alarmist stories of other options. Like a commando raid to spirit the nukes out of the country, which only works in the movies. An air strike to destroy them would leave highly radioactive wreckage, and make many enemies for the U.S. in Pakistan. A deal to insert U.S. security personnel might work, given the highly mobile American forces just across the border in Afghanistan, and off the coast on amphibious ships. There some planning going on for all these options, but there is no sure cure for this situation.


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