Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen. Ehsan ul Haq, 9th from right, with other members pose in front of Pakistan's Hatf IV (Shaheen-I) nuclear capable ballistic missile before its test launch on Nov. 29, 2006.
"Pakistan's Nukes are Safe. Maybe."
Op-Ed, Foreign Policy
August 13, 2009
Author: Vipin Narang, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program/Project on Managing the Atom, 2008–2010
"An excellent series of recent articles on the subject by Shaun Gregory, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen (a former director of intelligence at the Department of Energy), and Brig. Gen. Feroz Hassan Khan (Ret.) assess the very grim threat of Pakistan losing control over its 60-warheads-and-growing nuclear weapons arsenal. Given the lack of publicly available data on this critical issue, such articles by extremely knowledgeable scholars and practitioners represent some of the best information we have on realistic threats to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
Gregory's article has gotten some recent attention for noting that there have worryingly been several attacks at the perimeter of bases that may house nuclear components, though U.S. intelligence officials are quick to point out that there is little reason to believe that nuclear assets were ever at risk. So what are the primary risks to the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal?
In answering this question, it is important to differentiate between the various organizations involved with Pakistan's nuclear weapons, and where and when nuclear assets are more or less vulnerable to internal and external threats. The bigger threat is probably not the Army losing control of nuclear assets, but rather insider-outsider collusion or diversion of nuclear material from the civilian nuclear agencies during either the production phase or transfer to Army locations.
The good news is that once the Pakistani Army takes custody of nuclear assets, the threat of terrorists successfully boosting a warhead or fissile cores — either through direct attack or facilitated by insiders — is reassuringly low. The Pakistani Army has every incentive to ensure firm control over the country's nuclear assets since, should they be lost or stolen, there would literally be hell to pay...."
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
Full text of this publication is available at:
For Academic Citation: