US prepares for worst-case scenario with Pakistan nukes- Interesting Read

#1
Open Channel - US prepares for worst-case scenario with Pakistan nukes

Privately, current and former U.S. officials say that ensuring the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons has long been a high national security priority, even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and that plans have been drawn up for dealing with worst-case scenarios in Pakistan.

The greatest success of the U.S. war on terrorism – the military operation that killed Osama bin Laden in his safehouse in Pakistan in May – has fueled the concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, increasing suspicions among U.S. officials that he had support within the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service, and emboldening those in Washington who believe an orchestrated campaign of lightning raids to secure Pakistan’s nukes could succeed.

It’s no secret that the United States has a plan to try to grab Pakistan’s nuclear weapons -- if and when the president believes they are a threat to either the U.S. or U.S. interests. Among the scenarios seen as most likely: Pakistan plunging into internal chaos, terrorists mounting a serious attack against a nuclear facility, hostilities breaking out with India or Islamic extremists taking charge of the government or the Pakistan army.

In the aftermath of the bin Laden raid, U.S. military officials have testified before Congress about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the threat posed by “loose nukes” – nuclear weapons or materials outside the government’s control. And earlier Pentagon reports also outline scenarios in which U.S. forces would intervene to secure nuclear weapons that were in danger of falling into the wrong hands.

But out of fear of further antagonizing an important ally, officials have simultaneously tried to tone down the rhetoric by stressing progress made by Islamabad on the security front.

Such discussions of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, now believed to consist of as many as 115 nuclear bombs and missile warheads, have gotten the attention of current and former Pakistani officials. In an interview with NBC News early this month, Musharraf warned that a snatch-and-grab operation would lead to all-out war between the countries, calling it “total confrontation by the whole nation against whoever comes in.”

Michael Thomas / AP

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met with Texas Gov. Rick Perry on July 12 in Austin to exchange ideas about improving the economy and discuss the strained relationship between the U.S. and Pakistani governments. Musharraf has been critical of the White House's recent suspension of $800 million in U.S. aid to the Pakistani military, saying the decreased aid will hurt his country and hinder its fight against terrorism.
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“These are assets which are the pride of Pakistan, assets which are dispersed and very secure in very secure places, guarded by a corps of 18,000 soldiers,” said a combative Musharraf, who led Pakistan for nearly a decade and is again running for president. “… (This) is not an army which doesn't know how to fight. This is an army which has fought three wars. Please understand that.”

Pervez Hoodboy, Pakistan’s best known nuclear physicist and a human rights advocate, rarely agrees with the former president. But he, too, says a U.S. attempt to take control of Pakistan’s nukes would be foolhardy.

“They are said to be hidden in tunnels under mountains, in cities, as well as regular air force and army bases,” he said. “A U.S. snatch operation could trigger war; it should never be attempted.”

Despite such comments, interviews with current and former U.S. officials, military reports and even congressional testimony indicate that Pakistan’s weaponry has been the subject of continuing discussions, scenarios, war games and possibly even military exercises by U.S. intelligence and special operations forces regarding so-called “snatch-and-grab” operations.

“It’s safe to assume that planning for the worst-case scenario regarding Pakistan nukes has ready taken place inside the U.S. government,” said Roger Cressey, former deputy director of counterterrorism in the Clinton and Bush White House and an NBC News consultant. “This issue remains one of the highest priorities of the U.S. intelligence community ... and the White House.”

Carefully worded assurances
Mindful of the growing distrust and suspicions between Washington and Islamabad, U.S. officials have publicly tried to defuse concerns that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could be compromised. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress two weeks ago that Pakistan’s atomic arsenal has become “physically more secure” and the U.S. has seen “training improve” for personnel charged with securing the weapons.

But does “more secure” and “improved” training mean the Pakistanis have met U.S. standards?

Jeffrey T. Richelson, an intelligence historian, has written extensively about the possibility of a U.S. military operation aimed at Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, notably in his 2009 book “Defusing Armageddon.” The book focuses on the U.S. Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST), which might play leading a role in disarming Pakistani weapons along with elements of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

The nuts-and-bolts of how such an operation would work – such as whether teams would attempt to disarm or destroy the weapons – remain highly classified.
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But Richelson notes that without referring to Pakistan by name, Gen. Peter Pace, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in 2006 discussed two types of operations where in which the U.S. military would seek to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of al-Qaida or other militants.

Detailed in a military policy document titled “National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction,” the two scenarios were: “elimination operations” – defined as “operations systematically to locate, characterize, secure, disable and/or destroy a State or non-State actor’s WMD programs and related capabilities” – and “interdiction operations” – finding and seizing nuclear devices or nuclear material it has been removed from a nation’s storage bunkers but not yet delivered to a terrorist group.

Richelson also obtained an unclassified PowerPoint presentation titled “Detecting, Identifying and Localizing WMD” by the Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (SOLIC). In it were slides referring to “clandestine or low-visibility special operations taken to: locate, seize, destroy, capture, recover or render safe WMD,” either on land or sea. He said such a mission has been a special operations forces priority since 2002.

Neither the report nor the PowerPoint presentation specify where such operations would be considered, but Richelson says that both were prepared with Pakistan in mind.

“The focus on Pakistan,” he wrote, “is the result of its being both the least stable of the nine nuclear weapons states and the one where there has been significant support for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, not only among the general population but also within the military and intelligence forces.”

Publicly, U.S. officials don’t want to embarrass or infuriate Pakistani officials by suggesting such an operation would be possible, a point brought home in a White House press conference on April 29, 2009. After President Barack Obama spoke of the confidence he had in the Pakistani Army’s ability to secure the nuclear weapons, NBC News’ Chuck Todd began to ask if the U.S. military would step in and seize weapons that were at risk.

Obama quickly cut him off. “I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands, OK?”

'All nuclear matters are controlled by the army'
While the U.S. has a non-proliferation policy that aims for the elimination of Third World weaponry, it also has been working with Islamabad to minimize the current threat, sending an estimated $100 million to Pakistan since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to improve the safety and security of the Pakistani nukes.
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But Pakistan never permitted U.S. officials to visit the weapons bunkers or see how the U.S.-purchased equipment was working. In fact, Richelson writes, the Pakistanis have gone so far as to set up decoy bunkers to throw off anyone trying to keep track of the arsenal.

And physical security and protection from terrorists only addresses one aspect of the threat, Hoodboy said.

“Technology determines safety, but only partly,” he told NBC News. “Ultimately it depends upon the men who have control over nuclear weapons. … Governments come, governments go. But all nuclear matters are controlled by the army. The important question is whether the army has total, absolute control over its nukes. I have no idea whether this control is absolute, and doubt how anyone can know for sure.”

There are additional reasons to be concerned. In July 2009, for example, the journal of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point reported that “home-grown terrorists” had tried to enter Pakistani nuclear facilities three times between 2007 and 2008, when Pakistan was wracked by rioting and a series of destructive suicide bombings.

Shaun Gregory, director of the Pakistan Security Research Center at the University of Bradford in England, wrote of the attacks.

“These have included an attack on the nuclear missile storage facility at Sarghoda on Nov. 1, 2007, an attack on Pakistan’s nuclear air base at Kamra by a suicide bomber on Dec. 10, 2007, and, perhaps most significantly, the Aug. 20, 2008, attack when Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers blew up several entry points to one of the armament complexes at the Wah cantonment, considered one of Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons assembly sites.”

Pakistani officials have played down the seriousness of such attacks, noting that the attackers were unable to enter what are large military bases, much less penetrate the inner defenses.

Musharraf, who was president of Pakistan during the three reported attacks, dismissed the threat in talking with NBC News. Asked if terrorists were targeting Pakistan’s nuclear assets, he replied, “I don't think so. I don't think they are trying actively to get to our nuclear assets. And we have no such intelligence. Never.”

His statement is, at best, a disingenuous and narrow reading of the intelligence, according to former senior U.S. intelligence officials, who like the others quoted in this article spoke on condition of anonymity. These officials point to an August 2001 campfire meeting between bin Laden and his successor, Ayman al Zawahiri, and two Pakistani nuclear scientists, part of a so-called Islamic charity called UTN, on the other. With planning for the 9/11 attacks nearly complete, the two al-Qaida leaders wanted a tutorial on nuclear weapons development, according to U.S. intelligence reports.
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Tenet's tense meeting
Then-CIA Director George Tenet, in fact, wrote in his memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” of a tense discussion he had with Musharraf in Islamabad shortly after the U.S. found out about the meeting.

“After a few pleasantries … I launched into a description of the campfire meeting between (O)sama bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and the UTN leaders,” Tenet wrote. “‘Mr. President,’ I said, ‘you cannot imagine the outrage there would be in my country if it were learned that Pakistan is coddling scientists who are helping bin Laden acquire a nuclear weapon. Should such a device ever be used, the full fury of the American people would be focused on whoever helped al-Qaida in its cause.”

In a testimony before Congress four months ago, the CIA’s new director, Gen. David Petraeus, left little doubt the U.S. still fears the worst. “There are certainly elements in Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban and several other varieties of elements who generally have symbiotic relationships, the most extreme of which might, indeed, value access to nuclear weapons or other weapons that could cause enormous loss of life,” said Petraeus, then commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Like others in the U.S. government, however, Petraeus felt duty bound to note, “There is considerable security for the Pakistani nuclear weapons.” But he appeared to choose his words with care. “Considerable” does not mean “state of the art,” for example.

Not everyone thinks the U.S. is very worried about Pakistan’s nukes falling into the wrong hands. Zia Mian, a colleague of Hoodboy’s and director of the Project on Peace and Security in South Asia at Princeton, said war gaming and exercising for dire situations is something the Pentagon and CIA do all the time.

“The U.S. exercised global nuclear war. They’ve exercised attacking Iran. You’ve got to be ready,” Mian argues. “It suggests to me there are people whose job is to be worried. So when someone asks you, you say you’re worried. But when you’re reading the WikiLeaks disclosure, when you read embassy talking points, the nuclear weapons barely figure.”

Of course, the main question is if, in the last resort, the U.S. did attempt to “snatch” Pakistan’s weapons, would it work? Hoodboy thinks it’s unlikely to have the intended effect and could very well lead to one of two scenarios, both with potentially disastrous outcomes.

“An American attack on Pakistan's nuclear production or storage sites would be extremely dangerous and counterproductive,” he said. “By comparison the bin Laden operation involved only minor risks. Even if a single Pakistani nuke (out of roughly 100) escapes destruction, that last one could be unimaginably dangerous.” Hoodboy added that no seems to have thought through another scenario, one where there is confusion about who snatched the bomb. “The situation is more uncertain than even this. For one, it might trigger nuclear war with India, even if India was not involved in the snatch.”
I'm sure this has been thought about long and hard by more countries than just the US.

This opens a lot of questions beyond the obvious. The what if's are numerous and complex. What if the US succeeds, or has a coalition to perform the actions and succeed. What if they fail, what if Pakistan would actually launch against India.

Some of the chatter on the pakistan military web forums seems to think that it may actually be possible"

US Planning to Snatch Pakistan's Nukes


Not impossible for US. after having more than 7000 contractors and a established own intelligence network inside the pakistan for so long.
Anyone know if the US is tasked with helping Pakistan regarding QRF for guarding the nukes? This is indeed an interesting scenario.
 
#2
Pervez Hoodboy, Pakistan’s best known nuclear physicist and a human rights advocate, rarely agrees with the former president. But he, too, says a U.S. attempt to take control of Pakistan’s nukes would be foolhardy.

“They are said to be hidden in tunnels under mountains, in cities, as well as regular air force and army bases,” he said. “A U.S. snatch operation could trigger war; it should never be attempted.”
didnt like reading that bit, have the Pakis really got them spread out all over the place with so many diff units???

sounds like they are passing them around to the leading mil/security hard-men as personal issue to keep them happy. and with what delivery systems are they such deployed?

if they have, with a bit of luck they will nuke themselves if they fall out with each other.................(see what i did there)
 
#3
I would have thought the Chinese and Indians will have the last say on what the US does in this area. I can't see either of them tolerating Pakistan going tribal and nukes start popping up in the wrong hands.
 
#4
The US gives Pakistan over a Billion Dollars a year in aid, which is probably like a western country getting about 100 Billion. I think there is far more going on behind closed doors with the two of them than we are led to believe.
Having seen what the West can to to a countie's infrastructure I don't think even they would be dumb enough to take on the US in a war, Nukes or not.
Still, I could be wrong in which case Pakistan will end up as a big glass car park.
 
#5
I would have thought the Chinese and Indians will have the last say on what the US does in this area. I can't see either of them tolerating Pakistan going tribal and nukes start popping up in the wrong hands.
Which brings up an interesting point in the article. The "who done it" factor. With Pakistani nukes going missing it may not be exactly crystal clear who snatched them. One of the posts in the Pakistani military website spoke to having dispersed warheads mixed with dummy warheads on a rotation and how much confusion something like that would cause.

It's interesting to think about how China would react. It's been said by China that Pakistan is "their Israel" and that solidarity would be shown. That said however, certain aspects of Pakistan that irk the US also irk China ie: Xinjiang.

What the take away from all this is that the primary reason the US is in Pakistan to begin with. 1. Deny safe haven for terrorist 2. Stop Pakistan's nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of extremists.

There is also a lot of nervous reaction from India especially with regards to the US operating without "open" consent within Pakistan and that any attack in or near a nuclear site may be construed as coming from India.
 
#6
The biggest risk isn't militant seizure but somebody really nuts, even by Pindi's psychotic standards, getting Kayani's job. That'll be a hard event to identify, Mushie himself was a pretty loose cannon before he calmed down in power.

Then all bets are off, deterrence really won't work and they are rated #1 first strike risk. Pakistani military forums are frightening even in English I hear they are even more bonkers in Urdu. These guys have convinced themselves they can survive a nuclear exchange with India because of their bumpy terrain, the love of Allah and genocidal warfare is in their fairly recent history. They are not playing the madman.

The warheads are reportedly, code protected, disassembled and regularly moved all over the place. I think seizure is a fantasy, at best would only mitigate the threat as complete success is a no hoper, at worst it could provoke a launch and WWIII. Barry is sensible to play down any talk of it, after Abbotabad Pindi is damned jumpy.

The last ditch in reality is probably a massive US first strike followed by practically suicidal confirmation raids. And no India and China won't get much warning if any.
 
#7
Which brings up an interesting point in the article. The "who done it" factor. With Pakistani nukes going missing it may not be exactly crystal clear who snatched them. One of the posts in the Pakistani military website spoke to having dispersed warheads mixed with dummy warheads on a rotation and how much confusion something like that would cause.

It's interesting to think about how China would react. It's been said by China that Pakistan is "their Israel" and that solidarity would be shown. That said however, certain aspects of Pakistan that irk the US also irk China ie: Xinjiang.

What the take away from all this is that the primary reason the US is in Pakistan to begin with. 1. Deny safe haven for terrorist 2. Stop Pakistan's nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of extremists.

There is also a lot of nervous reaction from India especially with regards to the US operating without "open" consent within Pakistan and that any attack in or near a nuclear site may be construed as coming from India.
I don't think the Chinese will be concerned if it all go tits up on the Pakistan/South Afghan boarder, and I can't see there will be warheads stored in this area, too much of a risk of them being thrown back in their face.
If however the trouble starts moving east, and bubbles up in the traditional hot areas like Kashmir, that's starting to get a bit close to home for the Chinese, not just the weapon threat, but hard line religious influence on their southern regions. I can see the Chinese inviting them to FO back home.

India and China also have some big military and commercial deals, India has a booming economy and doesn't let religion get in the way of business. India is also investing in aircraft carriers, and modernisation of its military.

I mentioned to our friend AK the Afghan, both countries (Pak/Afg), had better take a broader view of their tribal bitch fight, and take care not to involve their giant neighbours. If it does go postal Nato SOP's won't be used, it will be a bit more rudimentary than that. And if they are winging about the US not getting their passport stamped now, they will find the Chinese can be very impolite when it comes to dealing with individuals they perceive as a threat. Oh and 'The Peoples Party' doesn't do religion.
 
#8
And don't forget the Saudis, their alleged involvement in and funding of the Pakistani deterrent means they won't want to see their ace in the hole get snatched by the US. They may be able to be bought off but it's not going to be cheap.

Of course, the most destabilising thing Pakistan has to deal with is a resurgent Afghanistan and the struggle for Waziristan. Which we're currently supporting. Whoops.
 
#9
Pakistan is probably the most bonkers country on the planet a serious plan is to retreat into afgahistan to survive the Indian first strike slightly better than duck taping multiple trauma plates to yourself to survive multiple .338 hits but not by much.
 
#10
Pakistan will only use nukes if its province of Punjab is threatened, otherwise the other minority provinces are of no importance to them, so it doesnt really matter if a Pashtun,bolochi or a Sindhi gets killed or attacked.

Pakistan will never risk loosing its nukes to the Jihadis, instead Pakistan only uses the Jihadi network in Afghanistan and the Pashtun regions, to keep the masses under control and its very much in control of them.

United States needs to isolate Pakistan from the world and they are good at that, but its amazing how the US avoids placing Pakistan onto its sanction list but loves to place secularists like Qadafi onto them.
 
#11
Pakistan will only use nukes if its province of Punjab is threatened, otherwise the other minority provinces are of no importance to them, so it doesnt really matter if a Pashtun,bolochi or a Sindhi gets killed or attacked.

Pakistan will never risk loosing its nukes to the Jihadis, instead Pakistan only uses the Jihadi network in Afghanistan and the Pashtun regions, to keep the masses under control and its very much in control of them.

United States needs to isolate Pakistan from the world and they are good at that, but its amazing how the US avoids placing Pakistan onto its sanction list but loves to place secularists like Qadafi onto them.
This was an interesting read until your contribution. With Jihadi's and other extremist organisations well entrenched in Pakistan I suggest there is an extremely high risk that one or more of these weapons will one day end up in the wrong hands, and probably with collusion from within ISI.
 
#12
This was an interesting read until your contribution. With Jihadi's and other extremist organisations well entrenched in Pakistan I suggest there is an extremely high risk that one or more of these weapons will one day end up in the wrong hands, and probably with collusion from within ISI.
Pakistan is not going to hand over Nukes to Jihadis, if that was so, they would have planted jihadis as their ministers throughout their settled areas, but they are not stupid to do so, they will only give Jihadis authority over regions, they fear would go against Pakistani interests hence Taliban in Afghanistan/Pakhtunkhwa and FC in Bolochistan.

Most of the Jihadi supporters in Pakistan are clean shaven, dressed in suits and dont even support their version of Islam, the ISI will never put the Taliban nor any Jihadi incharge of its HQ and Punjab/Karachi, there are even moderate Pakistanis who only support suicide bombings in Afghanistan but consider it Haraam in Pakistan.

Its called regional politics under the disguise of spirituality!
 
#13
If you dont like my comments, then dont respond to them you **** or put me on your ignore list. Pakistan is not going to hand over Nukes to Jihadis, if that was so, they would have planted jihadis as their ministers throughout their settled areas, but they are not stupid to do so, they will only give Jihadis authority over regions, they fear would go against Pakistani interests hence Taliban in Afghanistan/Pakhtunkhwa and FC in Bolochistan.

Most of the Jihadi supporters in Pakistan are clean shaven, dressed in suits and dont even support their version of Islam, the ISI will never put the Taliban nor any Jihadi incharge of its HQ and Punjab/Karachi, there are even moderate Pakistanis who only support suicide bombings in Afghanistan but consider it Haraam in Pakistan.

Its called regional politics under the disguise of spirituality!

This isnt a hollywood movie! go grap a book, maybe something written by Ahmed Rashid, and stop trying to be a smart ass ****!
Lets have less of the abuse, this is Current Affairs not the Naafi.

I merely pointed out that your earlier post was bollox. Why should any organisation risk assembling dirty bombs etc when the full and real article could be quite easily had by using contacts within the Pakistan military or intelligence world. As for your comment abut hollywood movies try reading this:

Swedish man arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen - Telegraph
It appears he was trying to cook his Sunday roast by using a DIY nuclear reactor in his kitchen. Not the subject of a fictional thriller.
 

Forastero

LE
Moderator
#14
AK, count to ten before you hit the send button and stop calling people cnuts. This is CA not the Naafi.
 

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