The United States has prepared an in-depth plan to take control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons if militant forces appeared on the verge of conquering the country, Fox News reported yesterday (see GSN, May 13).
"We have plans to secure [the weapons] ourselves if things get out of hand," a U.S. intelligence source said, amid Islamabad's continued offensive against the Taliban. "That is a big secondary mission for [the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command] in Afghanistan."
"Small units could seize them, disable them and then centralize them in a secure location," the source said of the Pakistani arsenal, which is believed to consist of at least 60 warheads.
Pakistan maintains a portion of its nuclear arsenal on mobile launchers that Washington has monitored closely using satellite and communications resources, Fox News reported. Islamabad keeps other nuclear warheads in storage bunkers.
"It's relatively easy to track rail-mounted ones with satellites. Truck-mounted are more difficult. However, they are all relatively close to the capital in areas that the government firmly controls so we don't have to look too far," the intelligence source said.
The United States has given Pakistan extensive funding and technical assistance aimed securing the nuclear stockpile. Still, concerns exist that personnel within Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies might ally themselves with militants, undermining the country's nuclear security and complicating any U.S. mission to assume control of the weapons (Rowan Scarborough, Fox News, May 14).