[ RadSafe ] Is this how nuclear security is supposed to work?
Clayton J Bradt
CJB01 at health.state.ny.us
Fri Aug 17 09:22:47 CDT 2012
Pakistani Militants Assault Base Where Nuclear Weapons May be Stored
Aug. 16, 2012
Extremists on Thursday carried out an assault on a key Pakistani military
site that is believed to house nuclear arms, the New York Times reported
(see GSN, May 23, 2011).
Pakistani authorities fought the heavily armed assailants for several
hours in the early morning at the Minhas air force installation in the
Punjab province, Pakistani television reports stated.
The air base is thought to house a portion of Pakistan's nuclear
stockpile, which is presently estimated at between 90 and 110 warheads
(see GSN, Aug. 9).
Pakistani insurgents have struck the air force site on three prior
occasions in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The Express Tribune last week cited intelligence officers as saying the
Pakistani Taliban was anticipated to launch an assault on an air force
installation not far from Lahore before the Id-al-Fitr holiday expected
next Monday (Declan Walsh, New York Times, Aug. 15).
Ex-Pakistani army Brig. Gen. Mahmood Shah denied that nuclear weapons are
stored at Minhas. "Nuclear assets management is totally a separate issue
and is being dealt with separately," he told the Washington Post. "No
nuclear arsenals are being kept in the known places, such as the air or
naval bases or military [containment] areas."
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan, in an interview with the
Post, said his organization had carried out the Thursday strike on Minhas
as retribution for recent Pakistani military strikes on his organization.
While the Pakistani air force said the nine gunmen who carried out the
Thursday strike had all been killed, Ahsan claimed there were only four
attackers. One Pakistani military official was also killed.
The militants seemed to have good intelligence about the layout of Minhas
and the surrounding land, according to Shah. "It's not the work of
half-educated Taliban militants, but the handiwork of al-Qaida planners"
(Shaiq Hussain, Washington Post, Aug. 16).
The security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal has long been a worry of the
international community. The United States officially maintains it has
faith in the Pakistani security establishment's stated ability to protect
its atomic arsenal from attack or diversion by terrorists.
"The great danger that we've always feared is that if terrorism is not
controlled in their country, then those nuclear weapons could fall into
the wrong hands," the Press Trust of India quoted U.S. Defense Secretary
Leon Panetta as saying to journalists on Tuesday.
"When I talk to the Pakistanis, I've always stressed the fact that we
should have common cause with regards to confronting terrorism; that
terrorists not only represent a threat to our country, terrorism
represents a real threat to their country as well," the Pentagon chief
"A lot of Pakistanis have died as a result of terrorism. A lot of members
of their military have died as a result of terrorism," Panetta said. "And
it's important for them to recognize that threat and to act against that
threat. And in particular, it's important because they are a nuclear
power" (Press Trust of India/Times of India, Aug. 15).
Hopefully, the ISI is as good at hiding Pakistan's nuclear arsenal as it
was at hiding Osama bin Laden all those years. Even so, eventually
someone will find their nukes - then what? I suppose more fire-fights like
Clayton J. Bradt
NYS Dept. of Health
Biggs Laboratory, Room D486A
Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12201-0509
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