Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pakistan and the US: A Tug-A-War over the Nuclear Arms

Below see excerpts from Seymour Hersh's latest piece in The New Yorker. There are good insights in this piece just as there are distractions and even misleading content.

For example the "very close" relationship between Mullen and Kayani as suggested in the piece is BS - "very coercive" would be a better choice; it's a game of power and respective interests. Or the indirect suggestion through quoting "a senior Pakistani official" with "close ties to Zardari" and then Zardari himself, that Zardari's administration would be keen on protecting the nuclear assets of Pakistan. One just needs to understand who brought him to power in the first place and with what agenda.

See previous posts on the nuclear issue and the tug-a-war between the main political players: On the larger US strategic interests, here. On President Zardari's role in this game and Army's response, here. On bombs/terrorism and politics surrounding Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, here. On the Taliban threat and the larger game, here.

Defending the Arsenal
by Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, November 16, 2009
Source

Selections:

"Pakistan has been a nuclear power for two decades, and has an estimated eighty to a hundred warheads, scattered in facilities around the country. The success of the latest attacks raised an obvious question: Are the bombs safe?"

"Obama did not say so, but current and former officials said in interviews in Washington and Pakistan that his Administration has been negotiating highly sensitive understandings with the Pakistani military. These would allow specially trained American units to provide added security for the Pakistani arsenal in case of a crisis. At the same time, the Pakistani military would be given money to equip and train Pakistani soldiers and to improve their housing and facilities—goals that General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of the Pakistan Army, has long desired. In June, Congress approved a four-hundred-million-dollar request for what the Administration called the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, providing immediate assistance to the Pakistan Army for equipment, training, and “renovation and construction.”"

"The secrecy surrounding the understandings was important because there is growing antipathy toward America in Pakistan, as well as a history of distrust. Many Pakistanis believe that America’s true goal is not to keep their weapons safe but to diminish or destroy the Pakistani nuclear complex."

"High-level cooperation between Islamabad and Washington on the Pakistani nuclear arsenal began at least eight years ago. Former President Musharraf, when I interviewed him in London recently, acknowledged that his government had held extensive discussions with the Bush Administration after the September 11th attacks, and had given State Department nonproliferation experts insight into the command and control of the Pakistani arsenal and its on-site safety and security procedures. Musharraf also confirmed that Pakistan had constructed a huge tunnel system for the transport and storage of nuclear weaponry. “The tunnels are so deep that a nuclear attack will not touch them,” Musharraf told me, with obvious pride. The tunnels would make it impossible for the American intelligence community—“Big Uncle,” as a Pakistani nuclear-weapons expert called it—to monitor the movements of nuclear components by satellite."

"In an actual crisis, would the Pakistanis give an American team direct access to their arsenal? An adviser to the Pentagon on counterinsurgency said that some analysts suspected that the Pakistani military had taken steps to move elements of the nuclear arsenal “out of the count”—to shift them to a storage facility known only to a very few—as a hedge against mutiny or an American or Indian effort to seize them. “If you thought your American ally was telling your enemy where the weapons were, you’d do the same thing,” the adviser said."

"A former State Department official who worked on nuclear issues with Pakistan after September 11th said that he’d come to understand that the Pakistanis “believe that any information we get from them would be shared with others—perhaps even the Indians. To know the command-and-control processes of their nuclear weapons is one thing. To know where the weapons actually are is another thing.”"

"Tarar, who retired in 1995 and has a son in the Army, believed—as did many Pakistani military men—that the American campaign to draw Pakistan deeper into the war against the Taliban would backfire. “The Americans are trying to rent out their war to us,” he said. If the Obama Administration persists, “there will be an uprising here, and this corrupt government will collapse. Every Pakistani will then be his own nuclear bomb—a suicide bomber,” Tarar said. “The longer the war goes on, the longer it will spill over in the tribal territories, and it will lead to a revolutionary stage. People there will flee to the big cities like Lahore and Islamabad.”"

"A $7.5-billion American aid package, approved by Congress in September, was, to the surprise of many in Washington, controversial in Pakistan, because it contained provisions seen as strengthening Zardari at the expense of the military. Shaheen Sehbai, a senior editor of the newspaper International, said that Zardari’s “problem is that he’s besieged domestically on all sides, and he thinks only the Americans can save him,”..."

"Pakistan’s fears about the United States co√∂perating with India are not irrational. Last year, Congress approved a controversial agreement that enabled India to purchase nuclear fuel and technology from the United States without joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty, making India the only non-signatory to the N.P.T. permitted to do so. Concern about the Pakistani arsenal has since led to greater co√∂peration between the United States and India in missile defense; the training of the Indian Air Force to use bunker-busting bombs; and “the collection of intelligence on the Pakistani nuclear arsenal,” according to the consultant to the intelligence community. (The Pentagon declined to comment.)"

"In an interview the next afternoon, an Indian official who has dealt diplomatically with Pakistan for years said, “Pakistan is in trouble, and it’s worrisome to us because an unstable Pakistan is the worst thing we can have.”" [I think this has some validity. India would prefer a neutralized Pakistan than a dismembered one, and 'controlled chaos' in Pakistan than 'total chaos' to achieve its strategic interests because the latter option would inevitably cause instability in India.]

"At another point, Musharraf, dressed casually in slacks and a sports shirt, said that he had been troubled by the American-controlled Predator drone attacks on targets inside Pakistan, which began in 2005. “I said to the Americans, ‘Give us the Predators.’ It was refused. I told the Americans, ‘Then just say publicly that you’re giving them to us. You keep on firing them but put Pakistan Air Force markings on them.’ That, too, was denied.”"

No comments: