Pakistan’s nukes up for jihadi grabs?

Within days of the 9-11 attacks, media speculation started that al-Qaeda was seeking nuclear weapons. Now it is starting to look like US actions could make that a self-fulfilling prophecy. Washington imposed sanctions on both Pakistan and India after their 1998 nuclear tests. Those sanctions were both lifted immediately after 9-11 as the US prepared for war in the region. US military aid to Pakistan continues—despite the regime’s complicity in nuclear proliferation to rogue states, and despite the fact that Musharraf threatened to use nuclear weapons in both the 2002 crisis with India and the Kargil crisis of 1999 (when he was just armed forces chief—his coup came in the immediate aftermath of Kargil). Using Pakistan as a proxy state in the GWOT has only inflamed jihadist sentiment there, providing a convenient justification for Musharraf to seize still greater power—which will further inflame the jihadis in a vicious cycle. And it’s all rendered even more ironic by the incestuous relationship between Musharraf’s own security forces and the jihadis. It isn’t difficult to see where all this is leading. On Oct. 29—before Musharraf’s auto-golpe—Newsweek found, with good reason, that Pakistan is the “most dangerous” country on earth:

Today no other country on earth is arguably more dangerous than Pakistan. It has everything Osama bin Laden could ask for: political instability, a trusted network of radical Islamists, an abundance of angry young anti-Western recruits, secluded training areas, access to state-of-the-art electronic technology, regular air service to the West and security services that don’t always do what they’re supposed to do. (Unlike in Iraq or Afghanistan, there also aren’t thousands of American troops hunting down would-be terrorists.) Then there’s the country’s large and growing nuclear program. “If you were to look around the world for where Al Qaeda is going to find its bomb, it’s right in their backyard,” says Bruce Riedel, the former senior director for South Asia on the National Security Council.

On Nov. 5, after the auto-golpe, India’s PTI news service picked up Riedel‘s quote in an article entitled “Pak’s nuclear bomb may fall into hands of terrorists.”

See our last posts on Pakistan, and nuclear fear.