Just returned from a talk by David Sanger, New York Times Chief Washington Correspondent and author of the new book, “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.
Among Mr. Sanger’s topics was the Obama administration’s strategy in Afghanistan. He said that President Bush started the war with grand talk about rebuilding Afghan society as a product of a new Marshall Plan. After twelve years of grinding war and very thin progress, President Obama’s current goals for Afghanistan have been scaled back to three. First, keep enough troops and resources in theatre to prevent the complete collapse of the central government in Kabul. Second, keep Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal from getting loose. Third, if Pakistan collapses, use our presence in Afghanistan to continue going after Al Qaeda in the region.
I asked him about that second goal. How does the US mission in Afghanistan have any effect on the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, and what leverage does the US government think it actually has over the security and control of that arsenal?
Mr. Sanger said that the plan for the residual US force in Afghanistan includes provision for a core of nuclear weapons specialists that would somehow “deal” with the event of some warheads getting loose from the Pakistani arsenal.
I’m glad to hear the military is doing some serious contingency planning . There was a terrifying article in the Atlantic last December, that disclosed that the Pakistani military has a policy of moving mated nuclear weapons in lightly defended vans over regular roads. From the article:
Western nuclear experts have feared that Pakistan is building small, “tactical” nuclear weapons for quick deployment on the battlefield. In fact, not only is Pakistan building these devices, it is also now moving them over roads.
What this means, in essence, is this: In a country that is home to the harshest variants of Muslim fundamentalism, and to the headquarters of the organizations that espouse these extremist ideologies, including al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (which conducted the devastating terror attacks on Mumbai three years ago that killed nearly 200 civilians), nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads.
I hope those nuclear contingency plans Mr. Sanger mentioned never need to be put to the test.