The U.S. has long been concerned that some Pakistani nuclear weapons might end up in the hands of Islamic terrorists. After all, many Pakistani military and intelligence officers are quite enthusiastic about Islamic terrorism and its use against Pakistan’s enemies. For many Pakistanis that includes the United States. But the Pakistani government knows that, if Islamic terrorists got possession of a Pakistani nuke and used it in the West, that nuclear weapon could be traced back to Pakistan. That’s because all nuclear material has a unique chemical “signature” and the United States is known to have built up an extensive library of these signatures over the years. Once the source of the terrorist nuke was identified, retribution might well be nuclear.
The reality is that Pakistan is more concerned about the U.S. seizing their nuclear weapons, than of terrorists trying to grab one or two. Thus Pakistan has been increasing the security around its 110 nuclear weapons to withstand American commandoes, not just local Islamic fanatics. This makes it much more difficult for Islamic terrorists to get at the nukes. While the Islamic terrorists do have the advantage of there being many pro-terrorists troops in the military, the recent addition of 8,000 more carefully selected troops to guard the nuclear weapons makes it even less likely that the terrorists could get away with taking one or two nukes for attacks in the West. More likely is terrorists grabbing some of the nuclear material Pakistan has stockpiled to build a hundred or more additional nuclear weapons and using that for a dirty bomb. Meanwhile, Pakistani generals are haunted by the ruthless efficiency of last years raid to get Osama bin Laden. Such an effort could just as easily take Pakistan’s precious nukes.