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Pakistani Nuke Security: US Special Forces on Stand-By

US Spcial Forces from the NEST team are understandably on stand-by to respond and secure or destroy Pakistani nuclear weapons if Musharraf falls to an Islamist coup.

US special forces snatch squads are on standby to seize or disable Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in the event of a collapse of government authority or the outbreak of civil war following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The troops, augmented by volunteer scientists from America's Nuclear Emergency Search Team organisation, are under orders to take control of an estimated 60 warheads dispersed around six to 10 high-security Pakistani military bases.

Military sources say contingency plans have been reviewed over the past three days to prevent any of Pakistan's atomic weapons falling into the hands of Islamic extremists if the administration of President Pervez Musharraf appears threatened by civil unrest.
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Some of the special forces are already believed to be in neighbouring Afghanistan and on alert for the mission. It is also understood that satellite surveillance of Pakistan has been stepped up to keep track of the possible movement of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems.

Should their deployment into action be required, the NEST teams will surely have no welcoming committee regardless of whose forces (and loyalties) are in place at any of the facilities in question.

Regardless, Pakistan's nuclear weapons - and their tight security - are the gravest concern for the United States. As al-Qaeda's insurgency in Pakistan continues to grow and gather steam while Musharraf appears ever weaker, the American sense of crisis grows.

Nothing is more dangerous than an al-Qaeda terrorist network with nuclear weapons. It is one which includes sympathizers (if not members) within Pakistan's military and intelligence.

Risk = Consequences x Likelihood

The consequences are fixed and grave. And as the likelihood increases, the level of true risk increases multiple-fold. As such, the risk must be treated with the utmost gravity by those best prepared to intervene.

2 Comments

Why is this kind of information being made public? Are we now telling the world everything we are getting ready to do?

In response, partial text of an email I sent to a reader who posed similar questions:

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I understand your concerns, but also find them unwarranted in this particular case. Here's why:

In the post you questioned, I was referencing a story already printed and published by the UK's The Herald, a major British paper.

They're not the only ones to run it.

Also, please understand that Pakistan - from Musharraf, to Army Chief of Staff General Kiyani and the whole of the Pak nuclear security forces command - have been made aware of our intentions should control go awry, and they have been informed in no uncertain terms of this since September of 2001. It is not a secret and, as well, not optional or up for their debate. They know that their best option is maintaining positive control of the situation at hand. When it begins to slip, they know what looms. I have revealed - nor has The Herald - no secret plan.

Regarding [the reader's emailed question] of "How many of our special forces troops will die" because of what was published, my answer is a firm Zero. First, it's not as if I know, let alone revealed, grid coordinates of their various stations. Second, the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance knows generally where we are in force inside Afghanistan. They refrain from direct attack usually, as you know, because when their heads are raised in a concerted offensive, they generally end up with exit wounds. In November, there were an (under) estimated 667 Taliban kills in Afghanistan, compared to 11 US casualties.

As I said, I sincerely understand your concerns and share them, just not in this particular instance. For over two years, we have been extremely cautious in the information we provide - there [is] far more that we do not publish than what we actually do publish, as a matter of fact. In this instance, I published no factual data other than that already publicly available, and would not have even done that if I thought there any issue at all of OPSEC. I played in the sand in the first go round in 90-91, so I hope that you can trust I understand a thing or two about OPSEC and would never knowingly risk jeopardizing safety and security for the boys on the ground. Ever.

You may still disagree on the wisdom of posting on it, but I do hope you can understand the logic behind my conclusion that there was no OPSEC risk in this. I felt some at home might draw perhaps a bit of comfort knowing that, while the risk with regard to Pakistani nukes is real, we're not just sitting on our hands in hope and prayer.

The Pakistani's know our intentions - purposely - and we know our obligations. And for the Pakistani's, they know it's a non-negotiable position. And we know that for us it's not an option but a requirement in worst case. No mystery, no secret.

Semper Fi,

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Hopefully, the above explanation is understandable and adequate. It remains my position that the public is served by knowing we are not sitting on our hands, and in knowing such, they know what the Pakistani military already knows in far greater and more explicit detail. And for good reason.