Friday, May 15, 2009
US Worries About "Loose WMDs" in Pakistan
"Imagine if the (swine flu) spread were intentional, not natural, and the virus’ lethality had been artificially enhanced. Pakistan has many dangerous diseases and pathogens under its control. The Nunn-Lugar program can help secure the pathogen strains to ensure they do not fall into the wrong hands. Equally important, the U.S. can assist Pakistan in establishing a system designed to detect, characterize and respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases," US Senator Richard Lugar, ranking member of the US Senate's foreign relations committee, said last week.
While Pakistan's nuclear weapons capability is well known, the country has had no publicly known chemical warfare (CW) program in the past. Pakistan has also signed and ratified the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and remains a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in good standing, according to NTI. Pakistan is self-sufficient in the production of chemicals such as sulfuric acid, caustic soda, soda ash, and chlorine. However, it relies on imports for most of the raw materials and intermediates for dyes, pigments, paints, varnishes, pesticides, plastics, and fertilizers. Although Pakistan likely has the technical capability to produce choking, blood, blister, and nerve, agents for use in chemical warfare, the Pakistani government is legally committed to refrain from developing, manufacturing, stockpiling, or using chemical weapons.
Although allegations have been leveled against Pakistan for conducting research into biological warfare since the early 1990s, Pakistan is not suspected of either producing or stockpiling biological weapons (BW). However, it is generally believed that Pakistan has a well developed bio-technology sector that is capable of supporting limited biological warfare-related research and development. In 1996, the U.S. Department of Defense stated that Pakistan "had the resources and capabilities appropriate to conducting research and development relating to biological warfare," and "was conducting research and development with potential biological warfare applications." But the U.S. government has not presented any evidence to corroborate its assertions, according to NTI.
Raising alarm about Pakistan's weapons of mass destruction and NBC weapons capability, Senator Lugar is advocating extending the 18-year-old Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program to secure and eliminate nuclear materials and other potential WMD ingredients in Pakistan.
"Initially, Nunn-Lugar was restricted to the former Soviet Union. In 2003, I wrote legislation, signed into law by the president, authorizing the Nunn-Lugar program to operate outside the former Soviet Union," Lugar said in a statement. "This authority can and should be used to expand significantly our cooperation with Pakistan in the nuclear arena as well as in other critical areas."
Lugar is not alone in sounding the alarm about Pakistan. The French officials have also chimed in. "Today the Taliban are making progress not just in Afghanistan but in the Pakistani interior itself, and at the end of this road there's a stock of nuclear weapons," said Pierre Lellouche, France's special envoy to Pakistan.
Taliban militants "are nibbling away and fear is settling into people's hearts," Lellouche said. "We shouldn't think of columns of Taliban descending on the capital. It's more complicated than that. We are seeing the rampant Talibanization of areas close to the capital, a mental Talibanization".
It appears from the increasing discussions in the West that many Pakistanis' fears about attempts to denuclearize Pakistan are no longer seen as just baseless propaganda or extreme paranoia. Some of the popular conspiracy theorists believe that the US and its western allies are deliberately trying to create the nuclear "threat perceptions" as an excuse to take away Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Speculations are rampant about Pakistan's denuclearization efforts by the West. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad and one of the few open critics of Pakistan’s nuclear program in the country, told DW-World that many argue that the Americans are exaggerating the Taliban issue: “There are growing conspiracy theories here that actually the Taliban have been put up by the Americans so that the country is destabilized and, looking at the destabilization, well, then it becomes logical and necessary for the Americans to come in and seize our nuclear weapons.”
At a White House press conference earlier this month, US President Barack Obama said that he feels confident that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.
According to The Times of India, a reporter insisted on a more precise reply, asking if in the worst case scenario, the US military could secure the nuclear weapons. Obama responded, "I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands. Okay?"
During his recent US visit, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said Islamabad is not adding to its nuclear arsenal as it does not need any more, but it would not disclose the location of its weapons to the US. Pakistan is "not adding to our stockpile as such", Zardari said on NBC's Meet the Press host. "Why do we need more?"
India's interest in disarming Pakistan is also raising concerns in Pakistan. Respected American South Asia expert Stephen Cohen of Washington's Brookings Institution has recently told his audience: "Not a few Indian generals and strategists have told me that if only America would strip Pakistan of its nuclear weapons then the Indian army could destroy the Pakistan army and the whole thing would be over."
Based on the the ongoing expression of fear in America and Europe, it seems almost certain that the US has contingency plans in place to relieve Pakistan of its nuclear weapons if Washington feels that the Islamic nation's nuclear arsenal is about to fall into the militant hands. According to Fox News, the US commando units in Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have been training in Nevada desert to carry out President Obama's order to secure Pakistani nukes. "We have plans to secure them ourselves if things get out of hand," Fox quoted a U.S. intelligence source who has deployed to Afghanistan as saying. "That is a big secondary mission for JSOC in Afghanistan." JSOC is made up of three main elements: Army Delta Force, Navy SEALs and a high-tech special intelligence unit known as Task Force Orange. JSOC was instrumental in Iraq in finding and killing Abu Musab Zarqawi, the deadly and most prominent Al Qaeda leader in the Middle East.
Many Pakistanis are hearing echoes of the pre-Iraq war WMD propaganda to justify the US invasion of the Muslim Middle Eastern country in 2002. The continuing U.S. media campaign about Pakistani nukes are likely to further alarm people in Pakistan and reinforce their suspicions about the real US intentions in the region.
Here is a video about US WMD concerns in Pakistan:
Lugar Urges CTR Expansion to Pakistan
Cooperative Threat Reduction Program
Propaganda Recycled: US Report Blames Pakistan For Future WMD Attack
Obama Confident on Pakistani Nukes?
US Plans to Secure Pakistani Nukes
India-Pakistan Military Balance
Pakistan Questions Safety of US Nukes
Are US Gentlemen Attempting to Annex Islamic Pakistan?
Indian Hostility Toward Pakistan
US Alarmed About Pakistani Nukes
Pakistan's Defense Production