Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Experts on Pakistani Nuclear Weapons

Check out the New York Times' article where they asked experts what to do about the potential for Pakistan's nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of the Taliban or another extremist group. Highlights:
From Rolf Mowatt-Larssen:
Pakistani nuclear weapons fall under the control of the military, which is the most professional, disciplined and competent institution in the country. It takes nuclear security extremely seriously, and will surely adopt heightened measures to protect these weapons.... In assuring the security of nuclear weapons in Pakistan, we should remind ourselves that the insider threat is the key wild card.
Karin von Hippel:
[T]wo other, less extreme scenarios also cause serious concern. The first would be yet another military coup, potentially led by junior officers with sympathy for the Islamist militants.... The second nightmare scenario would be continued state disintegration, resulting in competing militias, terrorist groups and criminal gangs in charge of most of Pakistan’s provinces and territories, with the government exercising only nominal control over parts of the capital city and — maybe — some of the nuclear weapons.
To enhance diplomatic, development and military efforts, the U.S. government should support an extensive countrywide campaign that personalizes the victims and the heroes, telling the stories of those who were butchered by the Taliban and those who successfully resisted.
Danielle Pletka:
These problems aren’t going to be solved by having special envoys with better titles, or subcontracting American defense to Saudi Arabia. We need clear indications of long term American commitment to the region, training and equipping of the Pakistani military, and effectively integrated military and aid programs.
Ellen Laipson:
But a security breakdown at the nuclear facilities and total takeover of the state by the Taliban are exceedingly low probability scenarios, and should not be the main focus of American attention and concern. Rather, we still need to devote time and effort to building trust in our long-term intentions, and avoid antagonizing Pakistan’s tense leadership.
Parag Khanna:
If the recent protests against Talibanization rippling across continent are any indication, the secular elites are becoming quite vocal. This sliver of the population together with Pakistan’s wealthy diaspora could play an influential role in restoring unity among Pakistan’s many factions.
The consensus seems to be that there is a VERY low probability of the Taliban taking over the country or controlling nuclear weapons, at least without inside help. Pakistan does need a lot of assistance and a lot of work, but the nightmare scenarios are, as I've said all along, not imminent.

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