Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Obama On Pakistan: “[W]e need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis”

Posted by K.E. White on April 29, 2009

President Barack Obama just fielded Chuck Todd’s presidential press conference question on Pakistan, and whether or not America could secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal if that government falls. Obama dimisses suggestions that the civilian government is teetering on collapse, and considers Pakistan reacting appropriately (however late) to the terrorist threat in Buner. He highlights America’s commitment to assist Pakistani civilian government to deliver basic services to Pakistanis, and the Pakistani army’s recognition that armed extremists–not India–represent the greatest danger to Pakistan. 

Obama’s full response–minus a small follow-up where he refuses to answer hypotheticals involving Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal:

I’m confident that we can make sure that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure. Primarily, initially because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands. We have strong military to military consultation and cooperation. I am gravely concerned of the situation in Pakistan not because I think they are going to be immediately overrun and the Taliban will take over in Pakistan. [But] more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile, and don’t seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services, school, health care, rule of law—a judicial system that works for the majority of people. So as a consequence, it is very hard for them to gain the support and the loyalty of their people.

So we need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis. And I think that there’s a recognition increasingly on both the part of the civilian government there and army that that is their biggest weakness. On the military side you’re starting to see some recognition just the last few days that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally. And you’re starting to see the Pakistani military take much more seriously the armed threat from militant extremists. We want to continue to encourage Pakistan to move in that direction. And we will provide them all the cooperation that we can. We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.

I feel confident that that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.

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