Sale on Pakistan’s Weapons

Nuclear20 "Dear Pat
A week or so ago, I noticed some of your readers were nervous about the fate of Pakistani’s nuclear arsenal. While some concern remains, the following facts should be noted.
As early as 2000, the Clinton administration created a joint commission, a liaison group, consisting of American and Pakistani scientists. The purpose of this group was to help the Pakistanis create command and control codes for the use of such weapons that would be unbreakable. In the course of such work, America basically gained full knowledge of Pakistan’s command and control system.
The US then used snatch teams to kidnap Pakistani scientists who were peddling Pakistan’s nuclear technology or knowledge of it to undesirables. A bunch of such scientists disappeared from Burma while traveling, for example. But the kidnaping disrupted the alleged 200 links between the Pakistan nuclear community and terrorists such as al Queda. Other Pakistanis sympathetic to al Qaida Sultan Bashiruddin, a much decorated scientist for Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, were arrested and interrogated.
The US had thoroughly infiltrated the nuclear procurement-peddling ring without telling the Pakistanis about it, which is why the US got Libya to abandon its program and why Iran, another Pakistan client, disclosed its own activities to the IAEA..
After 9/11, American aid to the Pakistanis to safeguard and control its nuclear arsenal was stepped up, with Bush using the proposed $3 billion in US aid as a bludgeon. Pakistan has 40 nuclear weapons, but within two days of the attacks, Pakistan’s military began to secretly relocate critical nuclear weapons components to six new secret locations, known to the Bush administration. When Pakistan joined the war on terrorism, it submitted to additional US oversight.
Lastly, Musharaff shuffled top military and intelligence personnel just before the US attack on Afghanistan on October 7. A new Pakistani Strategic Planning Division was set up, headed by a three-star general to supplement the control of such weapons by the National Command Authority.. There were also changes made to keep nuclear technology out of the hands of jihadis in the event Musharaff was assassinated. The US again had a big part to play in this.
So while the nukes of any country are allegedly in danger of hijacking, apparently the new safeguards are such that the slightest error in procedure renders the weapon null and void, a system much like the one the Russian used with their portable nuclear weapons systems.
So for now, the danger of jihadis seizing a Pakistan nuke seem minimal.
With greetings to all,
Richard Sale"

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15 Responses to Sale on Pakistan’s Weapons

  1. Ronald says:

    Wow. This seems to be to be very detailed information that is new to me. And good news.
    What are Mr. Sales’ sources for this? Are they previously published? I mean no disrespect by my questions/skepticism.
    Many thanks

  2. meletius says:

    Wow. Is there ANYWHERE else one can read such information?

  3. Hmmmm. Who got drunk and started blabbing?

  4. taters says:

    Thank you Mr. Sale, always enlightening to read you.

  5. Mad Dogs says:

    A little googling indicates that Richard Sale is the longtime UPI Intelligence Correspondent.
    I would expect that his reporting here should be taken seriously.
    And Richard, can you shed any light on who now in Pakistan has “final say” in the Command and Control Authority process loop now that Musharraf is no longer Army Chief?
    One would think that Musharraf would be hesitant to relinquish his previous authority in this “life or death” matter, but it may be that for “formality’s purposes”, the authority continues to reside with the Army Chief as a matter of Pakistan’s nuclear protocol, all the while Musharraf exerts the real power.

  6. Cieran says:

    Interesting reading, but I believe the intel side of these revelations is more likely to be accurate than the assertions regarding controls for arming Pakistani weapons.
    The intel side of this is quite interesting, though, in that these assertions gain some degree of validation by events in Libya and Iran that are otherwise more difficult to explain.
    The arming/fusing assertions are a bit more difficult to believe, tho they are also indirectly validated by rumors that have been floating around for the past several years.
    But the technical details for advanced arming systems are likely TS/RD information, protected by high-levels of Q/sigma clearances, and this is NOT the kind of thing that tends to show up in the popular media, at least not with any degree of technical accuracy. And it’s definitely not the kind of technology we tend to export to countries that are not behaving according to the NPT. The U.S. is really, really good at this kind of weapons technology, and it’s doubtful we’d want to share what we know with the Pakistanis, especially given their propensity for proliferation.
    It’s also doubtful that Pakistani nuclear experts would trust U.S. technology if it were available only in some black-box form that couldn’t readily be tested independently (if I were in their shoes, I’d suspect that any U.S. arming systems would be designed to let the U.S. detonate these weapons any time the U.S. liked, e.g., before they could be used against India in some future nuclear-tipped standoff).
    So while Sale is, as always, a most interesting read, I would certainly want to see some validation of these assertions before I stopped worrying about the risk of loose Pakistani nukes. And if the relevant information is indeed TS/RD, we will definitely not be seeing any validation or invalidation of these assertions in the media.

  7. J. Rega says:

    For Musharraf’s sake, I hope the contents of this letter don’t become common knowledge in Pakistan. The thought of the Pakistani government essentially ceding control of its nuclear deterrent to another country, one with close ties to the nuclear program of Pakistan’s main enemy, seems oddly treasonable to me.
    Even if it prospers (Musharraf), this is the sort of lackeyism that fuels much of the political force of the jihadi movement, a term better substituted with religious nationalism. If I were a Pakistani, I’d be furious with Musharraf for conceding sovereignty over the country’s weapons programs. I suspect many non-radicals are. The message to Pakistan is “you can have any sort of government you want, as long as it is amenable to Western neo-colonial interests”. As exemplified by Sale’s observation that:
    “When Pakistan joined the war on terrorism, it submitted to additional US oversight.”
    This kind of submission is the bread and butter charge of grass roots political forces – for whom Musharraf is the latest evolution of the cultural amphibians that plagued Indian/Pakistan nationalists for so many years.
    I guess Green’s and the Rose Hotel are packed again.

  8. Andy says:

    I find a lot of the information in Mr. Sale’s post not credible for a variety of reasons. Where is the evidence?

  9. As a note – my joke was about folks who get drunk and start telling people secrets. Not that the info is false.

  10. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Although the neo-colonialist charge certainly would carry weight in many quarters in Pakistan, perhaps President Musharraf had been read the riot act by Uncle Sam, and found compliance with his dicates to be the lesser of two evils. Nutbag jihadis might kill him, but Uncle could do irreperable harm to the whole country. Consider: 1) The US had gotten wise to the proliferation machine that was A. Q. Khan and his organization, and in all likelihood this organization was inseparable from the government of Pakistan. Bad boys get spanked. Do you think that Moammar Khadaffi merely got a few nasty looks for his efforts to obtain nuclear weapons technology, or do you think he got some hair-raising and very sobering threats to persuade him of the wisdom of coming clean and never, never doing anything so provocative again? How likely would it have been that the nation at the center of the proliferation network would escape the pressure to do as it was told?
    2) The ISI’s little side project, the Taliban, had at minimum given shelter to Osama bin Laden and his pals in Al Qaida. It certainly didn’t look too good to be standing shoulder to shoulder with AQ after 9/11. The way I see it, the Saudis provided the muscle, and a lot of the money and ideological support for AQ, but it was the Pakistanis who gave them the space in which to operate and train via their far-reaching influence in Afghanistan. Who’s more to blame? It’s an unanswerable question, but also a moot one. The actions of the Pakistanis made the attack actually possible, even if the Saudis were a sustaining force to the jihadis of AQ.
    So, things didn’t look too bright for the Pakistanis, given their dual, demonstrated propensities to both support jihadis whose blows fell on the US, and to proliferate nuclear weapons technology to those who are not the West’s friends. I am sure that President Musharraf had his mind brought sharply into focus by highly-placed representatives of the US government. Being tarred with the brush of neo-colonialist collaborator was probably the least of his worries. The very real prospect of much of his country under threat of becoming a glowing, radioactive wasteland was probably floated, if only indirectly. For some partial support for this hypothesis, see these links from 2006. While it is certainly true that Pres. M would be benefitted in domestic politics by maintaining that he had been pressured to cooperate with the US through threats, under the circumstances outlined above, do you think it unlikely that those threats had not been forthcoming?

  11. anthro says:

    You do understand that the language you use (“bad boys get spanked”) is exactly the kind of language that the “jihadi nutbags” accuse the West of using to describe them? The kind of language that throws fuel on the fire? Neo-colonialist lackey is just another colloquialism for such an incendiary terms.
    I’d be surprised if the radicals didn’t understand the threat that M. was under; I thought it came out on 60 minutes that the threat was not indirect. I doubt that that would lessen the charge of M. being an American proconsul (otherwise he would have had a much free-er hand with the Taliban-style insurgency in Pakistan). The fact that any such submission was necessary would not imply that his behavior would have been otherwise with lesser threat – for those who are ready to believe it (or who may have a better knowledge of internal Pakistani politics).
    Is he “really” one or the other? I’m not sure there is a “really” in this kinds of cases – but that rarely has an effect on discourse, particularly when national pride is at stake. I do hope that we really do have a backdoor into Pakistan’s nuclear systems, though, and this report isn’t just one more game. Pakistan may yet find itself rubble, even if simply from it’s internal politics – stones can lead to rubble as surely as refined isotopes.

  12. Pakistan must be at the top of discourse during the 2008 Presidential debates. If there is a summary somewhere of the candidates positions on Pakistani issues especially nuclear device command and control and safeguards that would be and should be of the greatest interest to al Americans.

  13. skep41 says:

    Oh really? What if Nawaz Sharif, mentor of the Taliban, takes power? The jihadis will have control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal then, wont they? If Condi and Bush arent dissuaded by this disaster from pushing ‘democracy’ in a land overrun with homicidal maniacs the mullahs will soon have their hands on the entire arsenal, not a stray one or two. Do you expect India to sit quietly by while this happens?

  14. Yasir Malik says:

    Pakistan has propoer National Atomic command centre same as USA..

  15. Mudassir says:

    I second to Yasir Malik, I understand that the politicians (some military officials e.g. cheif executives) of Pakistan have negative image globally but still people need to realize that its inevitable to have a proper chain of command to handle things like Nuclear Power Plants. If Pakistan were unable to handle this all, it dint have it all in the first place….wake up dudes! 😉

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