An article in the news magazine The Atlantic terms Pakistan as America’s ‘ally from hell‘. The immediate reaction to such a headline is unavoidably, ‘right back at you’. But let’s rise above such petty name-calling and consider some of the claims that are made in Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder’s explosive (sorry, couldn’t resist) article. The most surprising thing about the Atlantic’s nearly 10,000 word piece is how little it adds to the discussion of Pak-US relations. Americans think we can’t be trusted, we think the Americans can’t be trusted, actual militants are launching almost constant attacks against us, and our top strategists at GHQ think that India is just waiting to roll over the border and…do what, exactly, I’m not sure. And what is the reaction in the media? ‘AMREEKA PLANS TO STEAL PAK NUKES!’
The report does say that American military has drafted plans for how they would react if our nuclear weapons became insecure. According to the report, a former deputy director of counterterrorism under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush said that, “It’s safe to assume that planning for the worst-case scenario regarding Pakistan nukes has already taken place inside the U.S. government”. I would hope that it’s safe to assume that our own military, and really every military, does the same worst-case scenario planning. Hasn’t GHQ developed a plan to retaliate against an American attack? That doesn’t meant that we’re planning to attack the Americans, though. It just means that our military strategists (the real ones, not the characters on TV talk shows) are being prepared for the worst.
It should also be noted that a report for the US Congress released in October found that “A number of important initiatives, such as strengthened export control laws, improved personnel security, and international nuclear security cooperation programs have improved Pakistan’s security situation in recent years,” and that “US and Pakistani officials continue to express confidence in controls over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons”. Hardly the type of report that one would expect to precede an attack.
But while while our media talking heads are obsessing over whether the Americans have made a “worst-case scenario” plan about “what would happen to Pakistan’s nukes in the event of an Islamic coup” (an event not likely to happen) and causing panic among the masses, there have been actual strikes made against our assets.
At least six facilities widely believed to be associated with Pakistan’s nuclear program have already been targeted by militants. In November 2007, a suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying workers to the Sargodha air base, which is believed to house nuclear weapons; the following month, a school bus was attacked outside Kamra air base, which may also serve as a nuclear storage site; in August 2008, Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers attacked what experts believe to be the country’s main nuclear-weapons-assembly depot in Wah cantonment.
This should ring alarm bells at GHQ and in the public also. The Americans might have violated our sovereignity back in May, but they only did so following the violation of our sovereignty by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda. While everyone is fixated on an American plot against our nuclear weapons, jihadi militants have actually carried out at least six attacks against our security assets, and nobody seems to have noticed!
As the Americans prepare to leave Afghanistan, this should be an even bigger cause for alarm. Taliban militants know that they can just wait for the Americans to pack up and go home and they won’t be able to respond quickly to a successful raid. Hearing that “General Kayani believes that the U.S. has designs on the Pakistani nuclear program” would be music to their ears. It raises the fears that while the fox is sneaking in through the back door, the guard dog is watching for a wolf that isn’t coming.
Good news on this issue came today from ISPR on Sunday when they released a statement confirming that “t SPD has undertaken a comprehensive plan to significantly augment its existing capacity through induction of additional 8000 personnel in its Nuclear security force”. This statement of ISPR confirming the security of our nuclear weapons was reported in America, even by the news magazine that published the critical report last week.
This article has once again raised the national blood pressure and renewed fears of an American invasion, all while the Americans prepare to leave the region. Meanwhile, the jihadi militants that are actually carrying out attacks against our assets are overlooked or ignored. Nuclear weapons are a source of deterrent against aggression by rational actors like America and India, but they are seen as a prize to be looted by militants whose ideology is not true Islam but an apocalyptic suicide cult. If we want to ensure the security of our nuclear assets, we must protect them from the real, not the imagined threats.