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Archive for the ‘Alex Stolar’ Category

American Strategy in Pakistan: How Should America Perceive Pakistan’s Overlapping Proliferation and Terrorism Dangers?

Posted by K.E. White on May 23, 2007

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state currently seething with unrest, presents a profound challenge to American and global security. Pakistan is a terrorist hotbed, possibly offering international terrorists a new homebase. And Pakistan comes with a nuclear punch: What happens if one of these groups acquires a nuclear weapon?

But before crafting solutions, U.S. policy must prioritize its strategic goals toward Pakistan.

Is stabilizing the Musharraf regime to be gained at all costs? Should concerns over nuclear weapon leakage outweigh combating terrorist operations in the state? Naturally all these goals should be accomplished: But what goal should set American policy towards Pakistan?

Two recent publications point to the ‘Pakistan divide’ among the non-proliferation community.

Alex Stolar argues that fear of nuclear leakage obscures the greater problem facing Pakistan: Musharraf failing to consolidate the state. Even the most likely WMD-related threat facing Pakistan—a radiological device detonated in Pakistan—demands the state authority be strengthened.

Here is a portion of Stolar’s Stimson Center article:

…Today, the military’s Strategic Plans Division devotes over 8,000 men, mostly undercover, to protecting Pakistan’s weapons and fissile material. The Pakistani military is a highly capable and professional force. It is highly improbable that it would hand over its crown jewels to individuals or organizations that it cannot control during this period of unrest.

It is equally unlikely that terrorist would be able to steal Pakistani nuclear weapons or fissile material. It is true that the fiat of the Pakistani state is being challenged throughout Pakistan, and especially in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. In the most troubled regions, police and military forces are struggling to maintain order. However, the installations that house Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and fissile material, as would be expected, are heavily guarded and among the most secure facilities in all of Pakistan.

Similarly, fears that the current unrest could lead to a takeover of the Pakistani government by extremists are also misplaced. Religious parties are an important element of Pakistani society, but their political clout remains limited. It is unlikely that religious parties could engineer a takeover of the Pakistani government, as they lack both the popular support and the military power that would be required. The political power of religious parties would be further diminished if General Pervez Musharraf would remove the shackles from the two major political parties in Pakistan that do not define themselves in religious terms.

Unfortunately, unfounded fears about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have obscured more pressing threats. Radiological terrorism in Pakistan, as elsewhere, is possible. To conduct an act of radiological terrorism, extremists would need to fashion a radiological dispersal device (RDD) which consists of little more than conventional explosives and radiological materials that can be found in laboratories and hospitals. Though an RDD would cause few deaths, it could contaminate a large swath of land and stretch Pakistan’s emergency response capabilities.

The implications Stolar’s argument are two-fold:

1) Push Musharraf to make the political accommodations necessary to stabilize Pakistan (i.e. presumably have open/contested elections and relinquish his grasp over military control).

2) Push aside concerns of an illusory nuclear leakage threat and put American efforts into ensuring a stable state apparatus

But Daniel Byman offers a different take in his PSQ article:

The country that deserves the greatest attention today is Pakistan. Pakistan hosts of large domestic jihadist presence and significant numbers of foreign jihadists while possessing a nuclear weapons program that it has demonstrated it does not, or will not, control. The possibility of leakage is more than plausible, and the results could be catastrophic for the region and for the United States. Unfortunately, the United States will have to make trade-offs between working with Pakistan to fight terrorism and its efforts to stop proliferation.

In Pakistan, several assassination attempts on Pervez Musharraf appear to have involved military officials linked to jihadists. Each component, by itself, is important, but together they present an exceptionally dangerous combination.

…Pakistan stands out as an exceptionally dangerous combination of high levels of corruption and a high risk of terrorist penetration, with at best a medium-level security force. Other countries that are corrupt and do not have highly competent security forces do not have a grave risk of terrorist penetration.

America’s first priority, according to Byman, should help Pakistan secure its nuclear supplies directly—even if this hurts general non-proliferation efforts.

Should American energies first go to pushing Musharraf or securing nuclear arms? While a tactical (and somewhat overlapping) discussion, it rests of two very different views of Pakistan and the challenges it poses.

And when the possibly catastrophic costs of choosing the wrong policy, this discussion is one of the most urgent in the crosscutting nonproliferation and American foreign policy establishments.

Posted in Alex Stolar, Daniel Byman, Musharraf, Nonproliferation, Nuclear, Pakistan, Political Science Quarterly, Stimson Center, Terrorism | 6 Comments »