"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."
– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism

Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Now Under PM

Eric Auner

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari turned over formal control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in November amid continuing political upheaval and doubts about the future of his presidency.

Zardari’s decision to give up the chairmanship of the National Command Authority (NCA) “was not taken in isolation or under any pressure, rather [it was] meant to decentralize the powers” of the president, Press Secretary to the President Taimur Azmat Osman said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press of Pakistan, a government-run news agency. The text of the Nov. 27 ordinance implementing the decision was not available at press time.

Many analysts in the region and in the United States say the transfer will not have a significant effect on the practical control of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. In an op-ed published in Pakistan’s Daily Times, journalist Ahmed Rashid wrote that changes to the NCA would not affect the army’s control over the country’s nuclear weapons because “[c]ivilians have never controlled Pakistan’s nuclear program.” Smruti S. Pattanaik, a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, wrote on the institute’s Web site, “An elected President (and now the Prime Minister) chairing the NCA gives him notional control over nuclear weapons and thus creates a sense of civilian ownership.… Such a change of guard from President to Prime Minister does not portend any major shift in civilian control over the Army.”

Michael Krepon, co-founder of the HenryL.StimsonCenter in Washington, wrote on the center’s Web site that it is unclear whether “changes in the NCA and public releases of information about them [are] helpful or harmful to nuclear stabilization on the subcontinent.”

In 2000, Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf created the NCA to oversee Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and formulate nuclear policy. The precise function and role of the NCA were clarified in the 2007 National Command Authority Ordinance. According to that ordinance, the NCA is intended to exercise “complete command and control over research, development, production and use of nuclear and space technologies…and to provide for the safety and security of all personnel, facilities, information, installations or organisations” relating to the nuclear and space programs.

According to Krepon, Musharraf’s creation of the NCA gave Pakistan “a stable, institutional structure for Pakistan’s nuclear decision making.” Zardari replaced Musharraf as president in 2008, inheriting many of the broad powers that Musharraf had claimed for himself as president.

In the 2007 NCA ordinance, the president is named as NCA chairman and the prime minister is named as vice chairman.

The transfer of nuclear authority occurred the day before the expiration of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a 2007 ordinance that had granted Zardari immunity from prosecution. The expiration of the NRO, which was declared void “ab initio,” meaning that the ordinance was not legal in the first place, by the Pakistani Supreme Court Dec. 16, has caused a political firestorm in Pakistan. The NRO had protected many important Pakistani political figures from prosecution on charges ranging from corruption to murder. Although Zardari is still immune from prosecution as president, there have been calls for him to resign. According to the Indian newspaper The Hindu, former Prime Minister and current opposition leader Nawaz Sharif has called for all NRO beneficiaries to resign, although he did not mention Zardari by name.

The NCA chairmanship is just one of the powers that Zardari has given away as part of what many observers see as a bid to maintain his troubled presidency. However, according to Rashid, “There is enormous political speculation as to whether that will satisfy the army or only embolden it to press further for Zardari’s resignation.”

In a Dec. 9 New York Times op-ed, Zardari framed the change in the context of “mov[ing] forcefully to re-establish the traditional powers of the presidency as defined in the parliamentary model on which our Constitution is based.” He said the change in nuclear leadership is “not a sign of weakness, but rather a demonstration of the vitality of Pakistani democracy.”



Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari turned over formal control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in November amid continuing political upheaval and doubts about the future of his presidency.

Zardari’s decision to give up the chairmanship of the National Command Authority (NCA) “was not taken in isolation or under any pressure, rather [it was] meant to decentralize the powers” of the president, Press Secretary to the President Taimur Azmat Osman said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press of Pakistan, a government-run news agency. The text of the Nov. 27 ordinance implementing the decision was not available at press time.

Nuclear Security in Pakistan: Separating Myth From Reality

Feroz Hassan Khan

Pakistan is passing through an extremely delicate phase in its history. Recent instability in Pakistan, including the Taliban's advance into settled areas, prompted the Pakistani military to undertake large-scale military operations in the Swat Valley. As military and Taliban forces fight in the rugged tribal terrain, several Western analysts have raised concerns about the future of nuclear Pakistan.[1]

The nightmare specter of nuclear weapons, nuclear material, or a whole country falling into al Qaeda or Taliban hands is invoked, creating fear and mistrust between critical allies in the war against terrorism. The risk of a dangerous policy outcome in the United States, based on flawed assumptions, is now far greater than the probability either of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Taliban and other extremists or of the disintegration of Pakistan itself. Any misstep against a nervous nuclear-armed country would be a greater mistake than any made in Iraq. Fortunately, the current top leadership in the United States can distinguish reality from myth.[2] Nevertheless, misperceptions about weapons of mass destruction have influenced U.S. decisions too recently to be ignored in a discussion of the current situation in Pakistan.

Western fears about Pakistani nuclear security range from valid to bizarre. The more valid concerns involve theft of material, sabotage, unauthorized use of nuclear weapons, and insider-outsider collaboration. The potential for terrorist infiltration into the program is a concern for Western analysts and the Pakistani nuclear establishment. The bizarre fear involves the allegation that Pakistani armed forces and intelligence agencies, who are the custodians and guardians of the nuclear arsenal, could be accomplices to such an act as Taliban sympathizers.[3] An alternate scenario posits that the inability of the armed forces to defeat the Taliban extremists would result in abdication of the Pakistani state to the Taliban.[4] Gen. Tariq Majid, chairman of Pakistan's Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, called such scenarios "plain mischievous" and said they "need to be contemptuously dismissed."[5]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."[6] His words aptly describe the prevalent fears in regard to the situation in Pakistan today. Two main dangers emanate from the hype on nuclear insecurity in Pakistan. The first danger is that the grossly exaggerated threat perception in the West may prompt the United States into policy choices it would later regret.[7] The second danger is that continuing media focus on this issue stokes Pakistani paranoia about U.S. intentions. These fears and suspicions about U.S. intervention inside Pakistan could provoke that country to take defensive actions against foreign intervention rather than focusing on the possibility of reducing internal threats to nuclear security and could further fan anti-U.S. public sentiment. It is true that stability in Pakistan is shaky, its fledgling democracy is in transition, and it is facing internal threats from extremists. Until recently, decision-makers in Pakistan were in a state of denial and reacted only when the Taliban threat exploded in their faces. Therefore, it is justified to worry and ask questions about the security of a nuclear-armed country undergoing such a traumatic experience. It would be equally correct to weigh the seriousness of the threat against the ability of the state's security apparatus and its nuclear security measures to prevent the worst from happening.

This article examines the nuclear security of Pakistan in light of recent developments: the increasing threat of the Taliban and reports of Pakistan's expanding nuclear arsenal. The article will explore the backdrop of Pakistan's nuclear development in relation to U.S. policy. It will then examine the perceptions of insecurity and explain how Pakistan's threat priorities differ from U.S. concerns. Next, it will explain Pakistani efforts to establish a nuclear management system and the development of nuclear security culture. The article will conclude by examining the U.S. role in the evolving Pakistani nuclear security regime.

Backdrop: Regional Security

The nuclear dimension of regional security in South Asia is essentially a deterrence construct between India and Pakistan.[8] Although little has changed between India and Pakistan in the decade following their 1998 nuclear tests, the regional security landscape has been completely altered. [9] The region now faces new forms of asymmetric threat, the likes of which have never been experienced.

The war in Afghanistan, now in its eighth year, has metastasized into a classic insurgency and expanded into Pakistan. The impact of the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s, insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir, and domestic changes brought about during the Zia ul-Haq era have had a deleterious impact on the social fabric of Pakistan. New forms of religious-based militancy and an ethos of jihad were introduced in Pakistan at a time when the country was politically abandoned by its Western allies and slapped with nuclear sanctions.[10] Thus began a bitter history of distrust between Pakistan and the United States.[11]

Under these challenging and often unhealthy circumstances, Pakistan's covert nuclear program incubated and matured into an operational deterrent. The United States and Pakistan never saw eye to eye with regard to the latter's nuclear ambitions. Since the mid-1970s, every effort the United States undertook to block, stymie, and dissuade Pakistan eventually failed to stop Pakistan in its quest to acquire a nuclear deterrent.[12] The story of Pakistan's clandestine means of acquisition is widely known,[13] but less is known about the context, which involves domestic national politics, regional security, and intense geopolitical engagement with the United States.[14] By the turn of the century, the U.S. policy of rolling back Pakistan's nuclear capability had become an unrealistic objective. The United States instead sought to restrict Pakistan's nuclear capability to a minimum deterrence posture and dampen the security competition with India.

During the 1980s and 1990s, while Pakistan was building its nuclear program, issues of nuclear security and command and control were not the prime concern. That changed after Afghanistan-based terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, and news spread about a meeting in the summer of 2001 of two retired Pakistani scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majeed, with Osama bin Laden. Until then, concerns about "loose nukes" and nuclear material smuggling were focused on the former Soviet Union. Three years later, the shocking revelations about Abdul Qadeer Khan's nuclear smuggling network made Pakistan's nuclear program even more controversial.

Perceptions of Insecurity

States managing a nuclear weapons program typically have three main types of nuclear security concerns. First, every nuclear-capable state worries about the external threat of a preventive strike by hostile powers against its nuclear facilities. Second, such states worry about physical invasion of the state by a hostile neighbor. The third and probably the most dangerous concern is insider-outsider collaboration. Pakistan has lived with all three categories of threats since the inception of its nuclear program. Like every state, Pakistan's program places great emphasis on secrecy and compartmentalization. In the past, no single office, organization, or authority held ultimate responsibility for supervision. For the past decade, there has been a National Command Authority (NCA) with a dedicated secretariat (the Strategic Plans Division, or SPD), which is responsible for all nuclear-related activities.[15] Since these institutions were established, events, controversies, and deterioration of the regional and domestic environment have forced Pakistan to tighten its oversight and control.

The Taliban threat within Pakistan is a new phenomenon. The militant group led by Baitullah Mehsud belonging to the tribal belt in Waziristan calls itself the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP). The TTP is an extremist fringe whose activities have now expanded from the tribal areas into the settled areas of Pakistan. This provoked military operations that continue today and have resulted in the displacement of millions of people. The exact size of the Taliban in Pakistan is not known, but estimates range from 5,000 to 15,000. Grisly practices such as the public flogging of a young woman in April, against a backdrop of kidnapping, bombings of schools and mosques, and general killing of innocent civilians, turned the Pakistani public against any accommodation with the TTP or any other religious extremist organization. The tipping point arrived when the TTP exploited the "peace deal" and advanced further inland. The Pakistani public was shocked at the actions of an elected government that abdicated to such a force by negotiating a deal.[16]

Pakistan's armed forces are a half-million strong, and the country has a moderate Muslim populace with a history of repeatedly rejecting religious political parties.[17] The country has reacted forcefully against the Taliban, so the fear that Pakistani nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of the Taliban is totally misplaced.[18] As explained by Naeem Salik in a recent op-ed, there is "no causal relationship between the military operations against the Taliban and the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal."[19]

Nuclear security is a function of nuclear management, which covers both the nuclear arsenal and peaceful nuclear energy. The force goals and the size of the nuclear arsenal are determined by a comprehensive examination of national threats and responses to them. Meanwhile, nuclear energy requirements are based on long-term national development planning. Mixing the two together as a general expansion of nuclear capacity confuses the issue. Further, the terms "proliferation" and "nuclear security" are often used interchangeably. For example, Pakistani purchase of light-water power reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards should not be a proliferation concern.[20] The security of this expanding nuclear infrastructure requires an examination of the state's nuclear security regime, explained below.

External and Internal Threats

Pakistan does not have an enviable geography. It is surrounded by giant nuclear-armed neighbors Russia, China, and India. Its elongated shape lacks depth, making lines of communication vulnerable to India. Pakistan's western provinces consist of territories that are volatile because of border disputes (the Durand Line with Afghanistan) or internal tribal unrest, leaving the security managers of the state with extremely difficult choices. Pakistan's strategic planners are acutely aware of these structural vulnerabilities and account for them when selecting sites for sensitive nuclear and strategic organizations. They balance external threats, internal volatility, technical requirements, resource availability, and the secrecy requirements of every sensitive site. Therefore, generalized statements about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban are disconnected from the reality on the ground.

Since the late 1970s, Pakistan's perceptions of threats to its nuclear program were externally oriented. Preventive strikes or sabotage of the program were hypothetical considerations until Israel successfully struck Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. Pakistan quickly assessed that India would mimic Israel. The proximity of Pakistan's centrifuge uranium-enrichment plant at Kahuta to the Indian border forced Pakistan to secure it and other strategic sites with air and ground defenses.[21] In the mid-1980s, Indian plans for a preventive strike were leaked to the press, confirming Pakistani fears. India later shelved the plan, but the notion never died in the minds of the Indian military. In the winter of 1986-1987, the Indian military planned Brass Tacks, a provocative military exercise designed to give India an excuse to strike at Kahuta.[22] By then, the new mysterious site tucked in the foothills of Islamabad had become a source of curiosity to spies and diplomats. Layers of security were added to protect the program not only from external attacks but also from spies and news reporters. Around this period, the Afghan jihad against the Soviets expanded, as did Pakistani nuclear infrastructure.

The nuclear security culture was originally designed to protect the autonomy of the scientists so that their work could continue unhindered. Because of the significance of the cause, managers of the program had no authority to question the motives and practices of the scientists. This enabled Khan to take advantage of the lack of proper accountability. Another reason that Pakistan wanted to avoid publicizing the program was the risk of losing U.S. aid by triggering various U.S. laws designed to stop Pakistani efforts.[23]

Physical Invasion of the Country

Pakistan has existed under the threat of invasion throughout its existence. Several wars were fought with India, one of which resulted in Pakistani national dismemberment. Even during the British Raj, the Indian subcontinent lived under the threat of physical invasion, especially from armies using historical routes such as the Khyber and Bolan Passes. New doctrines of wars to defeat and destroy Pakistan continue to be contemplated, practiced, and exercised in India.[24] Since the mid-1980s, six major military crises of varying degrees of intensity have forced Pakistan to consider physical invasion from India an existential threat in perpetuity. This perception cannot be wished away unless India and Pakistan undertake a structured and sustained program of conflict resolution, in conjunction with conventional and nuclear arms control measures. The Pakistani armed forces must balance three dimensions: India, Afghanistan's threat to the western border, and internal extremist threats.[25] When selecting strategic sites, Pakistan carefully takes these threats into account. Material storage, missile silos, and movement of sensitive material and personnel are being carefully and professionally watched, and best practices are being developed to prevent security breaches.[26] Details of such procedures cannot be publicly shared for obvious security reasons. No state with nuclear weapons is likely to discuss its operational management; it is always shrouded in secrecy.[27]

Insider-Outsider Collusion

Insiders in the program could have one of several motives. Some could be driven by economic incentives. Others may see an opportunity for political gain. Some may be driven by revenge, grudges, jealousies, psychiatric disorders, and so on. Also, moles or spies could reveal nuclear secrets to outside powers, help sabotage or destroy the program from within, or disclose a site's location to facilitate outside attacks. U.S. media reports and publications from authors widely known to base their writings on U.S. government leaks have reinforced perceptions in Pakistan that its nuclear infrastructure must be protected as much from allies as from hostile groups.[28]

Finally, there is the danger from religious fanatics. In the case of Pakistan, it is not just the proximity of terrorist groups but also trends in some segments of society that are under the influence of religious cults.[29] These factors have made the managers of nuclear security more alert than ever as details in the next section explain.

Institutional Changes

After the nuclear tests in 1998, the Pakistani nuclear program faced three major needs: to review national security policies, institutionalize the management of the nuclear program, and develop a prudent strategy for a robust strategic force.[30] The first challenge required Pakistan to have a national security apparatus capable of comprehensively analyzing national security policy in changing times. This challenge is being tackled nationally at the political level. The remaining two challenges involve the NCA, which comprises the top civilian, military, and scientific decision-makers in the country. The SPD, formed in 1999, provides institutional oversight on nuclear decision-making.

Pakistan's strategic force goals are designed to redress the vulnerabilities described above and to restore strategic balance. Matching warhead to warhead or accumulating fissile stocks for military purposes is not the goal. The objective is to ensure deterrence stability by calculating a minimum deterrence posture that is related to the increasing capabilities of its adversary, namely India.

Next, nuclear technology is for civilian use as well. Pakistan's 25-year plan calls for an installed capacity of 8,800 megawatts of nuclear energy.[31] Nuclear force goals and nuclear energy will thus remain essential national priorities.

As the nuclear program expands, Pakistan's nuclear security regime must meet a higher qualitative and quantitative standard. The armed forces, widely acknowledged to be Pakistan's most stable institution, are responsible for the custody and development of Pakistan's nuclear safety regime. In fact, Pakistan's nuclear management, including nuclear security and safety, has been more widely discussed and scrutinized than that of any other power. The professional and technical ability of Pakistan ought to be encouraged rather than disparaged.

Evolution of Security Culture

Nuclear security culture evolved in Pakistan after the September 11 attacks.[32] Pakistan improved its supervisory procedure for military and scientific manpower. The security division of the SPD established a reporting system for monitoring the movements of all officials. Two identical programs for employment security were created: the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) and the Human Reliability Program (HRP), for military and civilian personnel, respectively. A security clearance system of annual, semiannual, and quarterly review was created. Counter Intelligence Teams were created to act as the daily eyes and ears of the SPD. Weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports for the security of all organizations are maintained by the SPD to prevent theft, loss, or accident.

Next, a system of sensitive material control and accounting was introduced. The system was derived from modern training, possibly modeled on U.S. national laboratory procedures. The system involved regular and surprise inspections to tally material production and waste in order to maintain transparency and accountability. Under a careful, secret plan instituted by the SPD, professional guards at static sites and escorts with tight security procedures are involved during transportation. Special theft- and tamper-proof vehicles and containers are used.[33] In peacetime, nuclear weapons are not mated with their delivery systems and are not operationally deployed. Operational secrecy precludes specific discussion of management of nuclear arsenals, but a two-man rule and, in some cases, a three-man rule is followed, with physical safety and firewalls built into the weapon system to prevent any unauthorized launch.[34]

The inception of the Nuclear Security Action Plan (NSAP), organized by the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA), was a very important development in Pakistan's nuclear security management. The PNRA is an independent body responsible for civilian programs, but it coordinates closely with the SPD. The two organizations complement each other by sharing best practices.

The main task of the NSAP is to manage all nuclear activities and radioactive sources that are under regulatory control and to develop a sustainable national system. Nuclear security emergency centers and procedures to secure orphan radioactive sources and to secure borders against any illicit trafficking have been put in place. Rigorous inspections are one key element of the PNRA's activities to strengthen controls. Another is the training of a wide variety of personnel from all major organizations. The training involves nuclear security, physical protection, emergency preparedness, detection equipment, recovery operations, and border monitoring. The organizations involved in training are the Coast Guard, Frontier Corps, Pakistan Rangers, Customs, Emergency & Rescue Services, National Disaster Management Cell, intelligence services, law enforcement agencies, and all strategic organizations including offices from the SPD.[35]

A Nuclear Security Emergency Coordination Center has been established in Islamabad, which is the focal point of coordination, by all the government agencies mentioned above. In addition, regional offices in all major cities have been established, creating a network of six emergency-response mobile laboratories. The primary job of this network, which was completed in December 2008, is to track and respond to any threat of illicit nuclear material, a radioactive source, or a radiological dispersion device ("dirty bomb"). Finally, the NSAP has established border controls at major crossing points with state-of-the-art screening procedures with the help of the IAEA and the U.S. Department of Energy.[36]

The U.S. Role

The recent hype and, at times, irresponsible writing by U.S. academics with serious credentials has created a sense of cynicism in Islamabad, reinforcing beliefs that the recent chatter is a prelude to aggressive counterproliferation measures by the United States.[37]

Many claims, such as those in a recent Boston Globe article[38] alleging the existence of a secret joint Pakistani-U.S. strategy for U.S. access to Pakistan, are baseless.[39] Pakistan is very careful in seeking assistance on nuclear technology from the United States, especially if the assistance is perceived to be of an intrusive nature. Like other nuclear-capable states, Pakistan jealously guards its locations and nuclear best practices from any outside influence or knowledge.[40] However, it is always keen to learn of other countries' nuclear security measures and to acquire detection equipment at seaports, airports, and other border crossings.

In 2001, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell offered nuclear security assistance to Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The SPD carefully examined the offer and accepted training but declined technology transfers, which they perceived as intrusive or likely to compromise program secrecy. Since then, Pakistan has benefited from advanced-level training from U.S. national laboratories and has improved its best practices in accordance with its own security culture.[41] There has been no further acceptance by Pakistan of any assistance from the United States, especially permissive action links (PALs), the coded mechanical or electrical locks designed to prevent unauthorized arming or detonation of a nuclear weapon.

There are two issues regarding cooperation on PALs. First, the U.S. export control laws restrict sharing PAL technology with other countries, especially with countries that are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).[42] Second, transferring PALs not only helps prevent unauthorized use, but also can encourage the recipient state to deploy and disperse the weapons, thus facilitating nuclear use. There are objections from the proposed recipient as well. The recipient state would have to share details of its nuclear weapons design for the technology transfer to work.[43] No country shares such secrets.

In fact, alarmist stories in the U.S. media actually undermine any possibility of positive U.S. assistance.[44] U.S. speculation about contingency plans and pre-emptive weapons seizure leads to greater Pakistani distrust of the United States. Referring to conjecture on U.S. plans to seize nuclear sites, Michael Krepon accurately summed up Pakistani anxieties: "I think these plans-if they exist and I'm not sure that they do-[are] unlikely to be successfully executed and would result in multiple mushroom clouds. So I think this is a bad idea, and it's a bad idea even to talk about it."[45]

What the United States can do is explain to Pakistan its own experience with nuclear security management. The United States cannot boast of a perfect security record itself.[46] Nevertheless, as the most experienced nuclear power, the United States can share its nuclear security practices, performances of the system, and the likelihood of mishaps.

Pakistan has three decades of experience in producing, transferring, and storing fissile stocks and weapons. Pakistani security managers have also learned to put in place detection equipment and security barriers, as well as set up checkpoints and customs posts. Such types of performance are easily measurable and can be improved with little assistance required.

The effectiveness of the nuclear security culture is difficult to measure, which is true for all nuclear powers, including the United States. It involves institutionalization of standing operating procedures and practices beyond individuals. No matter how good a system is, it will require constant improvement. Other countries cannot measure the effectiveness of Pakistan's system, but generic training and the sharing of experience will help improve it. The efficacy of any system is tested only when a mishap or near-miss occurs. It is important for any organization to learn the ways by which a clever and determined criminal might overcome security. Only then can the physical and technical limitations of the system be evaluated. For example, managers may have confidence in existing detection sensors, but a clever criminal can manipulate them by rigging the system or discerning the alarm threshold and stealing quantities below that threshold.

The United States has produced sensitive sensors and software that can detect radiation at an extremely low level. Pakistan is unlikely to accept foreign-made sensors in any of its sensitive sites, but it can use these devices at major geographical chokepoints. By utilizing its elaborate network of river systems and canals, which restrict movement, Pakistan can make broader security improvements. The United States can help Pakistan modernize its NSAP by installing modern sensors and radiation monitors for portal monitoring at locations acceptable to Pakistan. This would help prevent terrorist transport of conventional explosives as well as illicit radiological material. Modern sensors at key bridges on Indus River systems, for example, will help nuclear security and internal security against suicide bombers.

The most difficult aspect of measuring effectiveness comes from the unpredictability of human motivations. Motivated individuals can always elude effective barriers. Therefore, Pakistan must constantly maintain a very close watch over the system, in addition to upgrading and improving the PRP and HRP. Simply adding more guards and security personnel will not suffice; Pakistan must constantly evaluate its system to detect potential failures. The security divisions of the SPD and intelligence services have layers of security and counterintelligence mechanisms for all sensitive sites. They are highly active and alert in updating, monitoring, and keeping a vigilant watch to detect and respond to any undesirable proclivities within the system. Western countries can share their experience with Pakistan to help improve the screening and certification procedures of its PRP and HRP. The implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which establishes a requirement for countries to take measures to prevent proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their delivery systems, is extremely important, and Pakistan is believed to have taken serious steps to enforce international standards. National security considerations, however, prevent the SPD from publishing its results. Notably, Pakistani safeguards have always been in good standing with the IAEA, and Pakistan is a member of almost all international safety and security conventions.


Pakistan lives in a security-intensive environment, with internal and external threats. Nuclear weapons form an essential ingredient of its national security. Pakistan's pursuit of a nuclear capability is fraught with a history of friction with the United States. Pakistan has refused to be coerced on the nuclear question and views U.S. concern over nuclear security as "deliberate misinformation" and a "vicious campaign unleashed to malign and discredit" its achievement.[47]

Despite widely known limitations, Pakistan has done remarkably well in establishing a nuclear security regime and an evolving nuclear security culture that requires encouragement and support. It has been quite liberal in briefing U.S. officials, academics, and even journalists about its nuclear management. Over several years, Pakistan has sent officials, technicians, and administrators to receive training on modern technical solutions and management under the aegis of mutually acceptable arrangements that cater to each side's sensitivities.

Veiled threats and unsubstantiated criticism of its efforts can push an important nuclear-armed country in distress into directions highly undesirable for Pakistan and the United States. As critical allies in the war against violent extremism, the two countries have more pressing issues to tackle. Majid sums up the Pakistani perceptions of external or internal threats and the country's likely response: "Let it be known that Pakistan is confident but not complacent. Our security apparatus prepares and practices contingencies to meet all such eventualities and would not be deterred from taking any action whatsoever in ensuring that our strategic assets are jealously safeguarded. Any attempt to undermine our core capability will be strongly resisted and defeated."[48]

Retired Brig. Gen. Feroz Hassan Khan is a former director of arms control and disarmament affairs in the Strategic Plans Division of the Joint Services Headquarters of Pakistan. He is currently on the faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. The author is grateful to Paul Faris for his research and editing assistance.


1. See Bruce Riedel, "Pakistan and the Bomb," The Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2009; Bryan Bender, "Pakistan, US in Talks on Nuclear Security," Boston Globe, May 5, 2009, www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/05/05/pakistan_us_in_talks_on_nuclear_security/; Andrea Shalal-Esa, "U.S. Lawmaker Worried by Sag in Support for Defense," Reuters, June 24, 2009 (quoting Representative John Murtha [D-Pa.] about U.S. airstrikes against Pakistani nuclear targets).

2. Statements from President Barack Obama and senior U.S. political and military leaders have provided assurances on the security of the Pakistani nuclear program, even though they have recognized the internal instability and weak governance. See http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/29/obama.transcript/ (Obama's statement on the occasion of 100 days in office).

3. See Leonard Spector, "Pakistan, Taliban and Global Security - Part I," YaleGlobal, May 8, 2009; Riedel, "Pakistan and the Bomb"; David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Robert Kelley, "Pakistan Expanding Dera Ghazi Khan Nuclear Site: Time for U.S. to Call for Limits," ISIS Imagery Brief, May 19, 2009, p. 4.

4. Bender, "Pakistan, US in Talks on Nuclear Security."

5. See "No Compromise on Nukes: Pakistan," Indo-Asian News Service, June 18, 2009, http://in.news.yahoo.com/43/20090618/876/twl-no-compromise-on-nukes-pakistan.html.

6. Franklin D. Roosevelt, first inaugural address, Washington, D.C., March 4, 1933, http://bartelby.org/124/pres49.html.

7. See Simon Tisdall, "Pakistan Nuclear Projects Raise US Fears," The Guardian, May 3, 2009 (quoting Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani).

8. For details, see Feroz Hassan Khan, "The Independence/Dependence Paradox: Stability Dilemmas in South Asia," Arms Control Today, October 2003, pp. 15-19.

9. India and Pakistan have failed to resolve their conflict, and the United States continues to intervene to defuse crises but shies away from mediation because of Indian sensitivity.

10. For Zia ul-Haq's policy, see Robert G. Wirsing, Pakistan's Security Under Zia, 1977-1988 (London: MacMillan, 1991). For the ethos of jihad, see Zahid Hussain, Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), pp. 12-32.

11. See Steve Coll, Ghost Wars (New York: Penguin, 2004).

12. Feroz Hassan Khan, "Nuclear Proliferation Motivations: Lessons From Pakistan," in Nuclear Weapons Proliferation in the Next Decade, ed. Peter Lavoy (New York: Routledge, 2008), pp. 69-85.

13. See Mark Fitzpatrick, ed., "Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A.Q. Khan and the Rise of Proliferation Networks," IISS Strategic Dossier, May 2007.

14. See Peter Lavoy, "Nuclear Proliferation Over the Next Decade: Causes, Warning Signs, and Policy Responses," The Nonproliferation Review (November 2006), pp. 441-442; Feroz Hassan Khan, "Nuclear Proliferation Motivations: Lessons From Pakistan," The Nonproliferation Review (November 2006), pp. 501-517.

15. Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, lecture at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, October 27, 2006 (hereinafter Kidwai lecture). See Fitzpatrick, "Nuclear Black Markets."

16. The term "abdication" to the terrorists was used by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose view was echoed by Obama in the April 29, 2009, speech marking his 100th day in office. For the transcript, see http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/29/obama.transcript/.

17. The only exception was in the 2002 elections, when a coalition of religious parties won a plurality in the North West Frontier Province to form a provincial government. The coalition was routed in the 2008 elections.

18. See Tisdall, "Pakistan Nuclear Projects Raise US Fears."

19. Naeem Salik,"Comment: Riedel and the Pakistani Bomb," Daily Times, June 18, 2009, www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009%5C06%5C18%5Cstory_18-6-2009_pg3_2.

20. Ibid.

21. Feroz Hassan Khan and Peter Lavoy, "Pakistan: The Dilemma of Nuclear Deterrence," in The Long Shadow: Nuclear Weapons and Security in 21st Century Asia, ed. Muthiah Alagappa (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), pp. 220-221.

22. Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003), pp. 93-95. See Scott D. Sagan, "The Perils of Proliferation," in South Asia in 2020: Future Strategic Balances and Alliances, ed. Michael R. Chambers (Carlisle, Pa.: Strategic Studies War College, 2002), pp. 198-199.

23. See the 1977 Glenn and Symington Amendments and the 1985 Pakistan-specific Pressler Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

24. See, for example, Walter Carl Ladwig III, "A Cold Start for Hot Wars? The Indian Army's New Limited War Doctrine," International Security, Winter 2007/08, pp. 158-190.

25. Ladwig, "A Cold Start for Hot Wars?" pp. 158-190; S. Paul Kapur, "India and Pakistan's Unstable Peace: Why Nuclear South Asia Is Not Like Cold War Europe," International Security, Fall 2005, pp. 138-139.

26. See Zafar Ali, "Pakistan's Nuclear Assets and Threats of Terrorism: How Grave Is the Danger?" Henry L. Stimson Center, July 2007, www.stimson.org/southasia/pdf/PakistanNuclearAssets-070607-ZafarAli-FINAL.pdf; Abdul Mannan, "Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in Pakistan: Sabotage of a Spent Fuel Cask or a Commercial Irradiation Source in Transport," Henry L. Stimson Center, April 2007, www.stimson.org/southasia/pdf/VFMannan.pdf.

27. See Ashton B. Carter, John D. Steinbruner, and Charles A Zraket, Managing Nuclear Operations (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1987), p. 1.

28. Seymour Hersh, "Watching the Warheads: The Risk to Pakistan's Nuclear Arsenal," The New Yorker Magazine, November 5, 2001, pp. 48-54. Hersh alleges that "an elite Pentagon undercover unit [has been] trained to slip into foreign countries and find suspected nuclear weapons, and disarm them if necessary.... [The unit] has explored plans for an operation in Pakistan." See David Albright, "Securing Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons Complex" (paper for the 42nd Strategy for Peace Conference, Warrenton, Virginia, October 25-27, 2001), www.isis-online.org/publications/terrorism/stanleypaper.html; Nigel Hawkes, "The Nuclear Threat: Pakistan Could Lose Control of Its Arsenal," Times Online, September 20, 2001.

29. See Hasan-Askari Rizvi "Re-socialising Pakistan," Daily Times, June 7, 2009, www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009%5C06%5C07%5Cstory_7-6-2009_pg3_2.

30. Kidwai lecture.

31. Pakistan's energy requirement for the next 25 years is about 163,000 megawatts. Nuclear energy's share will be 8,800 megawatts, necessitating a twenty-fold increase in its current civilian nuclear capacity. For a description of Pakistan's Vision 2030 project, see Zafar Bhutta, "Nuclear Power Plants of 1280MW: Pakistan to Seek Financing From China," Daily Times, September 4, 2008, www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008\04\09\story_9-4-2008_pg5_1.

32. Pakistan's definition of nuclear security is "[t]he prevention and detection of, and response to, theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal transfer or other malicious acts involving nuclear material, other radioactive substances or their associated facilities." Jamshed Hashmi, presentation at a workshop by the Partnership for Global Security, Washington, D.C., February 21-22, 2008 (hereinafter Hashmi presentation).

33. Kidwai lecture; Mannan, "Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in Pakistan," pp. 30-31.

34. For further details, see Kenneth N. Luongo and Naeem Salik, "Building Confidence in Pakistan's Nuclear Security," Arms Control Today, December 2007, www.armscontrol.org/act/2007_12/Luongo.

35. Hashmi presentation.

36. Luongo and Salik, "Building Confidence in Pakistan's Nuclear Security."

37. For example, assertions in The Wall Street Journal by former CIA official Bruce Riedel, who is also one of the senior advisers on Obama's "AfPak" policy, are not viewed in Pakistan as academic but rather quasi-official U.S. views. See Salik, "Comment"; S.M. Hali, "Why Bruce Riedel Has Lost My Respect," The Nation (Pakistan), June 3, 2009.

38. Bender, "Pakistan, US in Talks on Nuclear Security."

39. Air Cmdr. Khalid Banuri, communication with author, June 5, 2009 and June 29, 2009. The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a media briefing on May 7, 2009, and said there was no truth to the Boston Globe assertions.

40. Kidwai lecture; Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, interview with author, Rawalpindi, Pakistan, April 19, 2009.

41. Strategic Plans Division, briefing to Naval Postgraduate School team, Islamabad, February 25, 2007. The briefing was part of the U.S.-Pakistan Track II Strategic Dialogue for Long-Term Partnership.

42. U.S. laws make an exception for sharing such technology only with NPT nuclear-weapon states. Pakistan is not a party to the NPT.

43. Garima Singh, "Interview With Brig Feroz Hassan Khan," Strategic Insights, Vol. 4, No. 7 (July 2005), www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/2005/Jul/khanJul05.asp.

44. For a perfect example of reinforcing Islamabad's concerns, see Riedel, "Pakistan and the Bomb." His selective historical account and characterization of the security of nuclear arsenals is shaky and a sad example of deliberate alarmism.

45. Elaine M. Grossman, "Talk of U.S. Plans to Secure Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Called 'Wildly Hypothetical,'" Global Security Newswire, June 10, 2009.

46. In October 2006, classified documents were stolen from Los Alamos National Laboratory and found in a trailer park. This led to the resignation of National Nuclear Security Administration head Linton Brooks. See Adam Zagorin, "A Breach in Nuclear Security," TIME, April 19, 2007. In August 2007, a U.S. Air Force B-52 mistakenly carried nuclear warheads across the country.

47. "No Compromise on Nukes: Pakistan."

48. Ibid.


Pakistan is passing through an extremely delicate phase in its history. Recent instability in Pakistan, including the Taliban's advance into settled areas, prompted the Pakistani military to undertake large-scale military operations in the Swat Valley. As military and Taliban forces fight in the rugged tribal terrain, several Western analysts have raised concerns about the future of nuclear Pakistan. (Continue)

Nuclear Security in Pakistan: Reducing the Risks of Nuclear Terrorism

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen

Today's frightening instability in Pakistan comes in a world in which global terrorists are actively seeking nuclear weapons and the materials and expertise needed to make them, a quest that has been underway for more than a decade. Rapid action is needed to keep the Taliban's advances in Pakistan from creating new opportunities for these deadly adversaries.

Yet, assessing nuclear security in Pakistan should not be viewed in isolation. The challenges faced by Pakistani authorities must be seen in their broader context to be properly understood and effectively countered. All countries in possession of nuclear weapons are concerned about the possibility of losing control over a bomb or weapons-related material. Consequently, states must pay utmost attention to securing these means of mass destruction. Recent years have seen increased international cooperation on nuclear security, improvements in international material protection control and accounting procedures, and increased funding for nuclear security-related initiatives. Despite increases in the scope and sophistication of security measures, much work remains to be done in order to lock down all nuclear materials to a Fort Knox standard. The fact remains that missing weapons-usable material turns up regularly on the nuclear black market.[1] The most worrisome aspect of these recurring incidents is that facilities from which the materials originated did not report them missing. In addition, there have been some notable lapses in warhead security, even in the United States.[2]

Despite such troubling developments, global security efforts until now have been good enough to avert a nuclear catastrophe. The bad news is that nuclear threats are growing.

According to former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, "Pakistan is the most dangerous country in today's world."[3]

Daunting Security Task

Ensuring complete control over nuclear equipment, material, and technology is more difficult now than at any time in the past. There is a burgeoning global interest in all things nuclear. More states are seeking nuclear technologies, power, and weapons. Production, transportation, and storage of nuclear materials will expand throughout the 21st century. The presence of more material in more places increases the odds of a security breach leading to the loss of a bomb or the theft of materials to make a bomb. The anticipated global renaissance in nuclear energy will pose new challenges in this regard unless the associated proliferation risks are fully taken into account in decisions on materials processing, transportation, and storage. In this light, it is essential to secure not only weapons-grade plutonium and uranium from military programs, but also plutonium, highly enriched uranium, and other materials from civilian programs. Materials that would not meet the standards required for a nuclear weapon developed by a state might be usable in a terrorist's yield-producing bomb.[4]

Thus, a zero tolerance standard must be adopted for the loss of any nuclear weapon or of materials that may be fashioned into a bomb. Terrorists know that they can exploit any vulnerability to their advantage. In December 1998, Osama bin Laden expressed al Qaeda's intent when he stated in an interview, "Acquiring weapons [of mass destruction] for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty."[5] In November 2001, he added, "I wish to declare that if America used chemical or nuclear weapons against us, then we may retort with chemical or nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as deterrent."[6]

In its efforts to achieve the stature of a state, a terrorist group is most interested in producing a nuclear yield-a mushroom cloud. Consequently, a terrorist group would improvise a nuclear device or essentially build a crude nuclear bomb, one that has a low yield and may be unpredictable, inefficient, and unsafe in comparison with the complicated weapons systems in a national nuclear arsenal. To counter this qualitatively new threshold of nuclear-related threats, states must ensure that terrorists do not acquire any nuclear materials. This risk increases the demands that must be placed on security measures for materials at all stages of their use, i.e., production, processing, transportation, and storage, in research reactors as well as weapons facilities. The bottom line is that it is not enough to preclude terrorists from getting their hands on a bomb. States must eliminate any possibility that terrorists will acquire sufficient materials to build a bomb or successfully attack or take over a facility containing weapons or materials.

After the September 11 attacks, for example, the United States raised the level of the security for nuclear weapons and nuclear materials. As a centerpiece of this effort, President George W. Bush signed a National Security Directive in August 2006 establishing the U.S. government's Nuclear Materials Information Program. This program directed the consolidation of all U.S. information pertaining to all nuclear materials worldwide, in all forms and at all levels of enrichment. It included radioactive sources that could be fashioned into a dirty bomb. Every country was considered as a potential source of a crude terrorist weapon, including the United States. The directive prescribed a systematic approach to assessing the security status of all nuclear materials in facilities and in transit. It required the construction of a forensics database containing all U.S. holdings.[7]

In addition, substantial new investments were made in upgrading security throughout the U.S. nuclear establishment. To that end, security planners in the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission made assumptions about the likelihood that malicious insiders at nuclear sites would work with outsiders to allow access to facilities and materials. The Energy Department and the FBI dramatically increased intelligence and counterintelligence efforts to mitigate threats posed by malicious insiders. Defense in depth-multiple, reinforcing layers of security-was strengthened to catch any leakage of materials or information that could enable an outside group in its pursuit of a bomb.

In spite of such upgrades, serious security lapses have occurred in the U.S. nuclear establishment over the past several years.[8] Others will surely happen in the future because no security is perfect. Thus, constant vigilance is required; it is important to strive continuously toward the elimination of nuclear threats, knowing that it may never be possible to achieve this ideal standard. The surest way to fail is to become complacent, to believe it cannot happen here.

That is certainly true in Pakistan. Nevertheless, all signs indicate that the professional and disciplined Pakistani military establishment that maintains control over the nuclear arsenal understands the dangers of a breakdown in nuclear security. Senior Pakistani military officers have consistently expressed a high degree of confidence that they are prepared to counter a range of plausible threats in this regard.

These officers have a lot to worry about, notwithstanding high-level reassurances from Pakistani authorities that everything is under control. Three worrisome trends are exerting mounting pressure on the Pakistani military's ability to secure its nuclear assets and prevent a nuclear catastrophe. First, growing extremism in Pakistan increases the odds of insiders in the nuclear establishment collaborating with outsiders to access weapons, materials, or facilities. Second, the rapid expansion of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program will introduce new vulnerabilities into the security system. Finally, growing instability within the country could lead to unanticipated challenges to nuclear command and control procedures, resulting in a "loose nuke" scenario, a takeover of a facility by outsiders, or, in the worst case, a coup leading to Taliban control over the nuclear arsenal.

Collaboration Scenarios

The greatest threat of a loose nuke scenario stems from insiders in the nuclear establishment working with outsiders, people seeking a bomb or material to make a bomb. Nowhere in the world is this threat greater than in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities have a dismal track record in thwarting insider threats. For example, the network run by the father of the Pakistani bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, channeled sensitive nuclear technologies to Iran, Libya, and North Korea for years under the noses of the establishment before it was taken down in 2003, to the best of our knowledge.[9] The Umma-Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), founded by Pakistani nuclear scientists with close ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban, was headed by Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, who had been in charge of Pakistan's Khushab reactor.[10] He discussed al Qaeda's nuclear aspirations with bin Laden. According to Mahmood, bin Laden asked him how he could construct a bomb if the group already had the material.[11] It is stunning to consider that two of the founding fathers of Pakistan's weapons program embarked independently on clandestine efforts to organize networks to sell their country's most precious secrets for profit.

Although the UTN network apparently was neutralized before it had a chance to fulfill al Qaeda's long-held aspirations to obtain what bin Laden has called a "Hiroshima bomb," this was the first known case in which a "WMD for hire" network had been created specifically to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorist and extremist groups. In this context, members of the UTN group represented the broad set of scientific- and engineering-related capabilities necessary to construct an improvised nuclear device. They had an international reach. Most importantly, some prominent members of the group had once held positions in the Pakistani establishment and had connections to people on the inside with access to nuclear materials. It is not certain that this group had the wherewithal to have succeeded in its desire to enable al Qaeda's quest for a bomb, but it is encouraging that resolute Pakistani and U.S. follow-up action apparently nipped in the bud a potentially serious threat.[12]

There are troubling indications that these insider threats are not anomalies. In the Khan and UTN cases, the rogue senior officers and their cohorts in the nuclear establishment were not caught by Pakistan's security establishment. It would be foolhardy to assume that such lapses could not happen again. The Pakistani military, intelligence, and nuclear establishments are not immune to rising levels of extremism in the country. There is a lethal proximity between terrorists, extremists, and nuclear weapons insiders. Insiders have facilitated terrorist attacks.[13] Suicide bombings have occurred at air force bases that reportedly serve as nuclear weapons storage sites.[14] It is difficult to ignore such trends. Purely in actuarial terms, there is a strong possibility that bad apples in the nuclear establishment are willing to cooperate with outsiders for personal gain or out of sympathy for their cause.

Relying on Secrecy

Pakistani authorities certainly recognize the gravity of this problem. One of the ways they are coping is to emphasize secrecy and clandestinity over the more visible manifestations of nuclear security. The U.S. and Russian model of nuclear security relies on redundant layers of high walls, gates, and guards at sites in order to produce a highly visible image of impenetrability that will deter those seeking to gain access to them. Essentially, Pakistan has sacrificed some of the advantages of the traditional approach to security in favor of reducing unique vulnerabilities and threats arising from the circumstances in which it finds itself.

The thrust of the Pakistani military's strategy is to reduce its vulnerability to a nuclear security incident by systematically denying outsiders opportunities to gain illicit access to nuclear weapons. Consequently, the nuclear establishment is distributed geographically: Materials processing and weapons production facilities are consolidated in sites near Islamabad in areas under tight government control. Special nuclear material is reportedly stored apart from the weapons themselves. Warheads are reportedly stored separately from delivery systems.[15]

Another precaution taken by the Pakistani military is to maintain strict secrecy over the location of storage sites and to transport and deploy weapons clandestinely rather than in convoys that have a stronger, highly visible security profile. These security precautions produce fewer visible signs of movements, thereby lowering the risks associated with possible theft of or attack on weapons at their most vulnerable point, in transit.[16]

Paradoxically, this dependence on secrecy over physical security could backfire in the event a malicious insider gained access to locations of weapons storage sites, transportation routes, and similar insider information, especially because more moving parts are involved in assembling weapons when they are being deployed. In such a case, there would be fewer barriers between an outside group and the bomb.

The emphasis on maintaining clandestinity and secrecy in nuclear activity may hold other unintended consequences. For instance, Pakistan's development of indigenous weapons-use controls-permissive action links (PALs)-for partially disassembled weapons systems is more challenging than for PALs built into a fully integrated weapons system.[17] Moreover, although unpredictability in nuclear-related movements and activity is good from the standpoint of frustrating would-be attackers, it could conceivably increase the chances of a dangerous miscalculation of Pakistan's actions by India, especially in a crisis in which Pakistan's archrival interpreted a nuclear terrorist incident as a threat against its security.

Another trend that militates against achieving perfect nuclear security is the rapid expansion of the Pakistani nuclear program. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal roughly doubled from 1998 to today's total of a hundred weapons, in round numbers.[18] In the coming years, as new plutonium-production capacity at the Khushab site comes online, the total number of nuclear weapons could increase dramatically.[19] Using plutonium as the nuclear-explosive material also would allow Pakistan to build smaller nuclear weapons.

The expansion of the nuclear weapons program will mean more material, more construction of facilities for processing material and manufacturing weapons and delivery systems, and more demands for waste storage and transportation. More of everything means more vulnerabilities, more places for something to go wrong.

Finally, Pakistan's expanding nuclear program and the insider threat that accompanies it is taking place in the context of the broader trend of increasing instability in the country. In terms of assigning probabilities to a potential nuclear meltdown, the most likely scenario that Pakistan may confront is not a loss of control over one of its nuclear weapons, although that risk certainly must be addressed. Rather, threats are more likely to emerge from the increasing number of potential pathways to a bomb, specifically, the increasing threats posed by a slow hemorrhaging over time of technology, design, and construction knowledge and materials that might ultimately cross the threshold and produce a terrorist bomb. This phenomenon is more complicated and subtle and more difficult to counter than the scary, well-hyped scenarios involving loose nukes stolen by terrorists from a storage site or in transit.

Rising Risks

Unfortunately, there is growing rationale and shared motivation for insiders and outsiders to cooperate out of shared hatred toward the United States. This kind of externally directed hostility may not be readily recognized in its formative stages by those guarding the nuclear weapons arsenal, because these threats are not being directed against the Pakistani government. Countering such insidious trends will require not only a strengthening of defenses, but also a weakening of the threats, the sources of anti-U.S. antipathy that contributes to the possibility that al Qaeda will be able to convince an insider to help its cause. In terms of assessing any spike in these risks, the overall direction of pro-Taliban and anti-Taliban sentiment in the country should be closely watched.

The National Command Authority (NCA) that controls the use of nuclear weapons remains under the tight reins of the Pakistani military, not the civilian leadership. It is not obvious how effectively the military might respond to unprecedented challenges to its nuclear command and control procedures. The bifurcation of civilian and military roles seems to have been left deliberately ambiguous under the NCA; certain responsibilities that nominally have been given to the civilian leadership may be carried out by the military. The potential discrepancy between constitutional authorities and actual execution of those authorities raises the risks of uncertainty and confusion in a crisis. For example, the Pakistan civilian leadership, especially if a more extreme government assumed power, might issue orders or make statements concerning the status and control of nuclear forces contradicting those made by the Pakistani military commander-in-chief.[20]

Confusing and chaotic conditions would likely accompany a deterioration of the general security situation in Pakistan. One can only imagine how difficult it might be for the military to respond effectively to an unanticipated challenge to command and control communications that results from a surging Taliban offensive. Worse yet would be the potential uncertainties caused by an extremist bid to seize power. In such cases, some elements of the military's loyalties might be divided, even in the event that overall control over nuclear forces continues to be assured. By way of example, if a colonel in charge of hundreds of troops decided to take over a nuclear weapons site, would the military be able to resolve such a situation in a way that did not lead to catastrophe?

It is not likely that the Pakistani military and nuclear security establishment can fully consider all such challenges to its authority in advance or, even if it can, that such scenarios would unfold precisely as anticipated. For example, how would the military be able to respond to a breakdown of security involving a loose nuke, an ambushed convoy, or a takeover of a nuclear facility? Even if the military managed to resolve any threats on the ground immediately, there are questions concerning the military and civilian roles in the NCA that are not well understood outside Pakistan or perhaps even within the country. It is possible that, in extreme circumstances, the Pakistani government would be hard-pressed to reassure the outside world, especially India, that all its nuclear assets are under the full and authoritative control of the military.

Fortunately, it appears that the odds of such a security breakdown are very low, at least from an assessment based on the current realities of the security situation in Pakistan. The authorities appear to be serious about countering Taliban advances in the country. That is vital because ensuring continued stability and law and order is the most important factor in averting the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe. As Pakistan moves forward to face an uncertain future, the government faces an ongoing challenge to its authority and myriad threats against which it must defend. With the passage of time, the odds steadily increase that Pakistan will face a serious test of its nuclear security.

For its part, the United States must be fully prepared to respond to this eventuality. The United States should continue to do all it can to assist Pakistan in upgrading its nuclear security. U.S. government assistance to Pakistan has been a wise investment, even without full transparency into the expenditure of funds. The United States should be satisfied that anything that helps upgrade Pakistan's nuclear security is an investment in its own security. No country, including Pakistan, can be expected to risk exposing the details of its nuclear security posture and readiness to another country. Most importantly, U.S. assistance has improved bilateral nuclear ties between Washington and Islamabad, engendered trust, established more reliable lines of communication, and enhanced the possibility of more effective consultation and coordination in a crisis.[21]

Pakistan and the United States should be prepared to take cooperation one level higher. Both countries should consider unprecedented ways to address the more extreme contingencies on a cooperative basis to the extent that such action is feasible and realistic. In the interest of bridging gaps in nuclear security planning, senior-level officials should use existing channels of communication to discuss, behind closed doors, their specific concerns, including various security vulnerabilities that may emerge. Having such a dialogue early on, before an incident occurs, might help lower the risks of either side making a serious misstep based on miscalculations arising from inadequate information, misplaced assumptions, or the sensitivities that inevitably accompany nuclear-related decision-making. In addition, Pakistan should receive high-level reassurances concerning U.S. nonintervention in a crisis, possible means of assistance, and so on. Moreover, senior officials in both countries should agree to pursue specific joint actions and special communications mechanisms to be activated during a crisis, such as responses to a stolen or missing nuclear weapon or takeover of a nuclear facility.

Finally, increasing the level of transparency and predictability between India and Pakistan is absolutely vital. Neither party can afford to make a miscalculation in the heat of the moment that might escalate into a nuclear confrontation.

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen is a senior fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Until January 2009, he headed the U.S. Department of Energy's intelligence and counterintelligence office and before that served as a CIA officer for 23 years in various domestic and international posts.


1. Council on Foreign Relations, "Loose Nukes," Backgrounder, January 2006, www.cfr.org/publication/9549/#3.

2. Zachary Hosford, "Congress, Pentagon Probe Nuke Overflight," Arms Control Today, October 2007, p. 48.

3. John Barry, "How to Fight Al-Qaeda Now: An Ex-CIA Analyst Talks About the Terrorists' Power and Their Vulnerabilities," Newsweek, October 27, 2008, www.newsweek.com/id/165952.

4. Michael Levi, Testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security, July 27, 2006, www.cfr.org/publication/1116.

5. Rahimullah Yusufzai, "Conversations With Terror," TIME, January 11, 1999, www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,174550,00.html.

6. Hamid Mir, "Osama Claims He Has Nukes: If US Uses N-arms It Will Get Same Response," Dawn, November 10, 2001, www.dawn.com/2001/11/10/top1.htm.

7. Steven Aoki, "Testimony on H.R. 2631, the Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act," Washington, D.C., October 10, 2007 (testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security).

8. "Tennessee: Plea Deal in Nuclear Case," Associated Press, January 27, 2009.

9. John Lancaster and Kamran Khan, "Musharraf Named in Nuclear Probe; Senior Pakistani Army Officers Were Aware of Technology Transfers, Scientist Says," The Washington Post, February 3, 2004, p. A13.

10. Dennis Overbye and James Glanz, "Pakistani Atomic Expert, Arrested Last Week, Had Strong Pro-Taliban Views," The New York Times, November 2, 2001, www.nytimes.com/2001/11/02/world/nation-challenged-nuclear-fears-pakistani-atomic-expert-arrested-last-week-had.html?pagewanted=all.

11. George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA (New York: Harper Collins, 2007), pp. 264, 268.

12. Steve Coll, "What Bin Laden Sees in Hiroshima," The Washington Post, February 6, 2005, p. B1.

13. Omar Waraich, "Cricket Attack: Suspicions Grow That Ambush Was an 'Inside Job,'" The Huffington Post, March 5, 2009, www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/05/cricket-attack-suspicions_n_172281.html.

14. Bill Roggio, "Suicide Attack at Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Complex," The Long War Journal, December 10, 2007, www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/12/suicide_attack_at_pa.php.

15. Steven Mufson, "U.S. Worries About Pakistan Nuclear Arms," The Washington Post, November 4, 2001, p. A27.

16. Chaim Braun, Pakistan's Nuclear Future: Worries Beyond War, ed. Henry D. Sokolski (Carlisle Barracks, PA : Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2008), pp. 261-262.

17. Gordon Correra, "How Secure Is Pakistan's Bomb?" BBC News, February 4, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7225175.stm.

18. Heather Maher, "Expert Says Pakistan Improving Quality of Nuclear Arsenal," Radio Free Liberty Radio Europe, www.rferl.org/content/Expert_Says_Pakistan_Improving_Quality_Of_Nuclear_Arsenal/1736019.html.

19. Ibid.

20. Mark Thompson, "Does Pakistan's Taliban Surge Raise a Nuclear Threat?" TIME, April 24, 2009, www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1893685,00.html.

21. Bryan Bender, "Pakistan, U.S. in Talks on Nuclear Security," The Boston Globe, May 5, 2009, www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/05/05/pakistan_us_in_talks_on_nuclear_security.


Today's frightening instability in Pakistan comes in a world in which global terrorists are actively seeking nuclear weapons and the materials and expertise needed to make them, a quest that has been underway for more than a decade. Rapid action is needed to keep the Taliban's advances in Pakistan from creating new opportunities for these deadly adversaries. (Continue)

Editor's Note

Elisabeth Erickson and Daniel Horner

The security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and infrastructure has been the subject of much coverage and debate in recent months as Pakistani government forces have stepped up their fight against insurgents. In this month's issue, two leading experts offer detailed analyses of the risks and possible policy responses.

According to Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, growing extremism, an expanding nuclear portfolio, and continuing instability challenge Pakistan's ability to protect its nuclear arsenal. He warns in particular against the slow leak of nuclear expertise and materials to nonstate actors.

Feroz Hassan Khan also sees "insider-outsider collusion" as a valid concern, but he emphasizes institutional changes that Pakistan has made to respond to that threat. A potentially much greater threat comes from flawed assumptions and rhetorical excesses, which could lead both Pakistan and the United States down the wrong path, he says.

Neither of the two authors saw the piece the other was writing, but they respond to each other on numerous points, disagreeing in some cases and agreeing in others. The two articles offer a valuable guide to analysts and policymakers navigating a delicate topic that has enormous implications for regional and global security.

Elsewhere in the issue, Hui Zhang addresses another thorny question in Asia as he looks at North Korea's nuclear weapons program and calls for more vigorous efforts by China to end it. He lays out a detailed road map for North Korea and other countries to follow. He argues that China could and should work with North Korea and the United States to pursue such a strategy.

In his "Looking Back" article, Greg Thielmann reflects on the National Missile Defense Act of 1999. He examines the circumstances leading up to it and the impact the legislation has had since its passage. As Eben Lindsey's news article on the Missile Defense Agency's recent testing of the Airborne Laser system indicates, the debates Thielmann describes resonate today.


The security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and infrastructure has been the subject of much coverage and debate in recent months as Pakistani government forces have stepped up their fight against insurgents. In this month's issue, two leading experts offer detailed analyses of the risks and possible policy responses. (Continue)

Toward a Nuclear Freeze in South Asia

Daryl G. Kimball

Ten years ago this month, tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers faced off in a confrontation over the disputed Kashmir region. If not for intensive U.S.-led crisis diplomacy, that standoff and another in 2002 could have led to war between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Since then, Indian and Pakistani nuclear and missile stockpiles have grown even larger, and the underlying conditions for conflict still persist. Indian military planners foolishly believe they can engage in and win a limited conventional conflict without triggering a nuclear exchange even though the Pakistani army's strategy relies on nuclear weapons to offset India's overwhelming conventional superiority.

Unfortunately, U.S. policymakers downplayed regional nonproliferation and risk-reduction priorities in the pursuit of other objectives. Beginning with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's visit to India this month, the United States should help to re-establish nuclear restraint and arms control as a top priority for the region.

Despite its struggle against extremists inside its own borders, the Pakistani army sees India as its main adversary. Pakistan is expanding its uranium-enrichment capabilities and building two new plutonium-production reactors for weapons purposes even though it already possesses enough fissile material for 60-80 bombs.

One excuse for Pakistan's ongoing buildup is the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation initiative. Approved last year, the deal exempts New Delhi from long-standing restrictions on civil nuclear trade in exchange for India's promise to refrain from nuclear testing and support a global ban on fissile material production for weapons, among other nonproliferation commitments. The deal gives India access to global nuclear fuel markets, freeing up its limited domestic uranium supplies for use exclusively in weapons production. India has enough fissile material for well more than 100 bombs.

India and Pakistan each claim to want only a "minimal credible deterrent," but the end of their nuclear and missile buildup is not in sight. Indian and Pakistani support for negotiations on a global fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) is weak at best.

Ambassador Nirupama Rao said May 29 that New Delhi would allow multilateral talks to begin but would "not accept obligations" that hinder India's "strategic program" or research and development or those that "place an undue burden on our military nonproscribed activities." That, of course, is the very purpose of an FMCT.

Nor have the two states moved closer to a legally binding test ban since Washington persuaded them to declare testing moratoria in 1999. In recent months, Pakistani and Indian officials have said they have no plans to join the United States and China as signatories to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Given the billions of dollars of U.S. military aid flowing into Pakistan and India's commitments made in the context of the nuclear cooperation deal, the Obama administration can and should use its leverage to put the brakes on their nuclear arms race. As Clinton suggested in a June 20 speech, the nuclear deal "can and should also serve as the foundation of a productive partnership on nonproliferation."

For his part, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said June 3 that India would "welcome real action toward nuclear disarmament" and "will work with our partners internationally towards that objective." Now that President Barack Obama has jump-started global disarmament efforts and pledged to engage other states in the effort, India and Pakistan must do their part by embracing rather than rejecting commonsense nuclear arms control strategies.

A good starting point would be for India to invite Pakistan and China to halt fissile production for weapons pending the conclusion of a global FMCT. India, which has more than enough separated fissile material to maintain a large nuclear deterrent force, would win wide international acclaim for the proposal and remove the rationale for Pakistan's fissile buildup.

The Obama administration can nudge New Delhi along by strictly adhering to a key provision of the implementing legislation for the nuclear cooperation deal. That provision requires a report to Congress by the end of this year and each year thereafter that assesses whether India has or has not increased unsafeguarded fissile material production.

Clinton should not hesitate to put the CTBT back on the U.S.-Indian bilateral agenda. She should urge her Indian counterparts to reiterate Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's 1998 commitment that India would not be among the last states standing in the way of the treaty's entry into force.

New Delhi is clearly not yet ready to sign the CTBT, but it is not in its strategic interests to resume nuclear testing. As then-Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) said on the floor of the Senate on November 16, 2006, "[I]n the event of a future nuclear test by the Government of India, nuclear power reactor fuel and equipment sales, and nuclear technology cooperation would terminate."

It may be difficult for the Obama team to nudge India and Pakistan toward greater nuclear restraint, but failure to bring about change risks the most severe nuclear proliferation consequences in the years ahead.


Ten years ago this month, tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers faced off in a confrontation over the disputed Kashmir region. If not for intensive U.S.-led crisis diplomacy, that standoff and another in 2002 could have led to war between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Since then, Indian and Pakistani nuclear and missile stockpiles have grown even larger, and the underlying conditions for conflict still persist. Indian military planners foolishly believe they can engage in and win a limited conventional conflict without triggering a nuclear exchange even though the Pakistani army's strategy relies on nuclear weapons to offset India's overwhelming conventional superiority. (Continue)

Pakistani Nuclear Stocks Safe, Officials Say

Peter Crail

Pakistani and U.S. officials have sought to allay increasing concerns in recent months that instability in Pakistan might threaten the security of Islamabad's nuclear weapons. Pakistani security forces have been engaged in open conflict with militant factions that now control large areas of the country's northwestern territories.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters May 4, "I remain comfortable that the nuclear weapons in Pakistan are secure." He added, however, that the potential that such weapons could fall into the hands of militants "is a strategic concern we all share."

Pakistani officials have rejected outright any such concern. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, was quoted May 3 in the London Guardian as saying, "The specter of extremist Taliban taking over a nuclear-armed Pakistan is not only a gross exaggeration, it could also lead to misguided policy prescriptions from Pakistan's allies."

It is not the first time that Pakistani officials have criticized questions about Islamabad's ability to secure its nuclear arsenal. In January 2008, Pakistan called comments by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei expressing concerns that Pakistani nuclear arms may be acquired by extremists groups "unwarranted and irresponsible." (See ACT, March 2008.)

Pakistan has an estimated nuclear arsenal of up to 60 warheads. For security purposes, the nuclear cores of these warheads are stored separately from the conventional explosives package, which initiates the nuclear explosion. The warhead components are also kept separate from the jet fighters and ballistic missiles that would be used to deliver them. Islamabad claims to be developing a nuclear-capable cruise missile as well.

Pakistan appears to have instituted an additional level of security to prevent unauthorized use of its nuclear arms. The director-general of Pakistan's Strategic Plans Division, Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, stated during a lecture at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 2006 that Pakistani nuclear weapons incorporate "some functional equivalent to the two-men rule and Permissive Action Links that the [United States] and some other nuclear-weapon states rely on to protect against loss of control."

Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 10, "Pakistan has taken important steps to safeguard its nuclear weapons, although vulnerabilities still exist."

Beyond the issue of the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal are questions about Islamabad's accounting and security controls over its nuclear material. Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, former director of the Department of Energy's Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, said, "For years I was concerned about the weapons materials in Pakistan, the materials in the laboratories," according to the May 3 New York Times. Mowatt-Larssen added that he was "growing more concerned about something going missing in transport," the Times said.

Recent reports that Pakistan continues to expand its nuclear arsenal appear to add to worries about the security of nuclear material in the country. Maples said March 10 that Pakistan is expanding its nuclear infrastructure and its nuclear weapons stockpile.

An April 1 Congressional Research Service report stated that Pakistan reportedly continues to produce at least 100 kilograms of highly enriched uranium each year. Pakistan has also operated a 40- to 50-megawatt reactor at Khushab since 1998, which is not under IAEA safeguards.

David Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said in an April 23 report that, under the present conditions of instability in Pakistan, "the security of any nuclear material produced in these reactors is in question." According to the report, Pakistan has nearly completed a second reactor at Khushab that is much larger than the first and has begun construction of a third. Albright assessed in 2000 that the Khushab reactor can produce enough plutonium annually "for a few nuclear weapons," and estimated in 2006 that the second reactor could produce enough for 40 to 50 weapons each year.

Pakistani officials deny any expansion of the country's nuclear arsenal. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said during a May 18 press briefing, "Pakistan does not need to expand its nuclear arsenal." He added, "[W]e will maintain a minimum nuclear deterrence that is essential for our defense."

The United States is planning on boosting its security assistance to Pakistan, and lawmakers have expressed concern that such aid may contribute to Islamabad's nuclear efforts.

U.S. officials have sought to assure Congress that U.S. aid would not benefit Pakistan's nuclear weapons complex. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee May 20 that the administration is "quite convinced that none of our aid will in any way affect the efforts of Pakistan regarding their nuclear stockpile."

Pakistan is believed to have modified its U.S.-supplied F-16 fighters to serve as nuclear-weapon delivery vehicles. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) introduced legislation in April that would limit U.S. assistance pledged by the Bush administration to upgrade Pakistan's F-16 fleet.

Facing long-standing skepticism in Congress, U.S. officials have claimed that the F-16s can serve a counterinsurgency role. Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told Berman's committee May 5 that Pakistan did use F-16s in battles with militants in the Bajur and Swat Valleys. He added that the fighters can only be used in a counterinsurgency role with "very sophisticated training."

Pakistani and U.S. officials have sought to allay increasing concerns in recent months that instability in Pakistan might threaten the security of Islamabad's nuclear weapons. Pakistani security forces have been engaged in open conflict with militant factions that now control large areas of the country's northwestern territories. (Continue)

Loose Nukes in New Neighborhoods: The Next Generation of Proliferation Prevention

By Kenneth N. Luongo

In the initial weeks of the Obama administration, former Vice President Dick Cheney stated that there was a "high probability" of a terrorist attempt to use a nuclear weapon or biological agent and that "whether they can pull it off depends on what kind of policies we put in place." President Barack Obama, in his April 5 Prague speech, said that terrorists "are determined to buy, build, or steal" a nuclear weapon and that the international community must work "without delay" to ensure that they never acquire one. Obama also outlined a number of policies for locking down vulnerable nuclear material and strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

If both Cheney and Obama are right, that the threat is real and we are in a race against time, then the new administration needs to act quickly to adapt its nuclear and biological proliferation prevention strategies and threat reduction programs to combat this 21st-century challenge. This effort will require significantly increasing programmatic budgets, creating a robust globalized agenda, harmonizing U.S. government and international programs, removing bureaucratic and legal impediments to action, and utilizing new tools to defeat the new threats. The Obama administration needs to create a next-generation Global Proliferation Prevention Initiative.

Need for a New Concept

The international nuclear and biological threat reduction agenda now encompasses numerous U.S. government agencies and has a budget of more than $1.7 billion in the current fiscal year.[1] With U.S. activities as the core, these programs are supplemented by the Group of Eight (G-8) Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and several other multilateral initiatives, including the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

Although the threat is global, the overall effort is still culturally, politically, and financially very much rooted in one region: the former Soviet Union. This remains true even as many large-scale projects are nearing completion in Russia and the other former Soviet states. The budgets of key programs in the three major U.S. agencies participating in international threat reduction activities, the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State, currently still devote more than one-half of their combined funding to activities in Russia and the other former Soviet states.[2]

Congress has incrementally provided authority for U.S. agencies to expand their mission to other global hotspots; the agencies have exercised that authority primarily in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.[3] For example, the Defense Department has used the authority to remove chemical weapons from Albania and Libya. The Defense and State Departments and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency within the Energy Department, combined their resources to remove the nuclear infrastructure in Libya after that country abandoned its nuclear ambitions. The State Department's Biosecurity Engagement Program is working to improve biological security in Egypt, Jordan, and other African and Asian nations. Nevertheless, the entire Global Partnership program is still spending its money primarily in Russia, although the G-8 expanded the mandate at its July 2008 summit, stating, "[T]he Partnership will address...global challenges particularly in areas where the risks of terrorism and proliferation are greatest."[4] The follow-up to this statement has been minimal, although more details may surface at the G-8 summit in Italy in July. Still, despite the loosening of the geographic strictures, the effort is suffering from incremental thinking and adaptation.

Threat reduction programs have always suffered a certain political and bureaucratic pigeonholing and second-tier status. Even Obama's Prague speech, which called nuclear terrorism "the most immediate and extreme threat to global security," pushed this agenda to the back of the speech and led with the more politically popular arms control objectives.

In today's environment, there need to be strong and effective policy adjuncts to the traditional military, diplomatic, and intelligence tools for fighting proliferation. The existing threat reduction agenda needs to be reconceptualized as an integrated global proliferation prevention tool focused on the security, removal, and elimination of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the targeting of the financing for illicit programs and activities.

Shifting to New Neighborhoods

The targets for an expanded preventive proliferation effort are evolving both geographically and substantively. Obama has made a very bold pledge to lead "an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years,"[5] and he also vowed to strengthen U.S. involvement in a broad range of bioproliferation prevention and response activities. (See Table 1.) What is lacking is a detailed strategy for attacking the problem frontally and rapidly with a modernized and comprehensive initiative to achieve these objectives. Conspicuously absent from the Prague speech was any mention of the need for improvements in global biosecurity policy and international coordination on this multifaceted and growing challenge.

To ensure that a new and refocused proliferation prevention effort achieves the same success in new states that the threat reduction programs have had in Russia and the other former Soviet states, several actions must be taken.

As a first step, the Global Proliferation Prevention Initiative needs to merge the best of the old and new cooperative threat reduction (CTR) policies and programs. As a recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report suggested, the effort needs to be updated from "CTR 1.0" to "CTR 2.0."[6] A new proliferation prevention initiative must be more agile, flexible, and globally responsive than the current efforts, while retaining the cooperative and results-focused core of current CTR programs.

Importantly, the effort needs to be operationally multilateral, rather than U.S. dominated. This requires better coordination among allies and may require utilizing non-U.S. funding and letting other countries lead efforts in order to overcome any allergy that may exist to U.S.-led initiatives. In particular, Russia and the United States should find a way to share global nuclear nonproliferation responsibilities based on their past history of post-Soviet cooperation.

Also, the proliferation prevention activities need to be given the same legitimacy as the more traditional treaty-based approach to managing proliferation challenges. Both political and financial capital need to be put behind the effort, and the new concept must be driven home within the executive branch, with congressional policymakers, and with the G-8 Global Partnership and other partners.

In addition, the metrics for this initiative should be broadened to recognize the value of cooperation and engagement. These softer, more intangible benefits of the threat reduction approach are very important, but they are politically difficult to comprehend and sell, in part because they were not part of the original threat reduction legislation. These metrics now need to be legitimized because their value has been proven over time. They should be formally incorporated into a new national security directive and legislation. Then, there could be no dispute in the future about the value of the intangibles as legitimate measures of success.

Finally, at home, the United States must ensure that its own agencies and policies are well coordinated. For example, the Department of the Treasury's new "smart" sanctions program recognizes the reality of integrated global financial markets and utilizes them to combat proliferators. The program targets the proliferators' financing networks and denies them access to essential global financial institutions and mechanisms. By freezing and then releasing the personal assets of a number of North Korean officials, the program is probably most responsible for pushing that country's government to fulfill, at least partially, its commitment to abandon its nuclear program. The targeted sanctions are an essential part of the proliferation prevention initiative even if they never were an integral part of the threat reduction agenda. Obama's Prague speech usefully underscored the importance of these "financial tools."

New Target Countries and Regions

As the cooperative proliferation prevention agenda globalizes, it is necessary to look at which countries and regions it might encompass. As it relates to radiological material security and elimination, virtually every country is a target, especially the medical facilities utilizing medical radiological sources. Major U.S. friends, foes, and strategic competitors all are ripe for consideration.

  • The denuclearization of North Korea is a major international objective that, if it occurs, would require significant multinational involvement. The cost for the dismantling of the existing nuclear infrastructure in North Korea is estimated to be about $700 million. The United States would likely pay this entire amount, and the Obama administration has already requested some funding for this project in its first supplemental appropriations request.[7] In addition, if North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex is eliminated, the West may also have to address the issue of excess weapons scientists and the redirection of their activities. Beyond the nuclear program, North Korea has a significant biological infrastructure that also poses a lurking danger.[8]
  • The new U.S.-Indian civil nuclear cooperation agreement did not dwell on the issue of the security of India's nuclear facilities beyond the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on its declared civilian nuclear facilities. New Delhi has rebuffed efforts by Washington to engage more deeply on this issue. As a state that is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and that has been given an exception from standard nuclear cooperation rules, India should be more willing to engage in a dialogue about how it can assure the highest levels of safety and security for nuclear materials and weapons. The muddled response to the bolt-from-the-blue terrorist attack on Mumbai and ongoing terrorist activity in India inevitably raise questions about adequate nuclear security, even though India's nuclear facilities are presumably much better protected than soft civilian sites.
  • The United States and Pakistan have had an ongoing dialogue and cooperation on nuclear security since 2001. Reportedly the United States has provided $100 million for equipment and training. This work, initiated during the administrations of George W. Bush and Gen. Pervez Musharraf, will likely continue under the new governments in Washington and Islamabad. In recent years, Pakistan has worked with the United States on biological security, but the nuclear security cooperation is ripe for expansion as the intensity of terrorist attacks in Pakistan has increased. Also, there are continuing questions about insider threats at nuclear facilities. In addition, Pakistani officials have indicated an interest in working with Washington on the issue of retired weapons scientist redirection, but they have not received much of a response from their U.S. counterparts.[9]
  • There has been a nuclear security dialogue between China and the U.S. Energy Department dating back to the 1990s, but it is low-key and cautious. Because China has a close relationship with Pakistan, the former could be a conduit for engaging the latter in more intensive and sensitive cooperation on nuclear security. Also, the May 2008 earthquakes in western China came perilously close to elements of the country's nuclear infrastructure, including a research reactor, two nuclear fuel production facilities, and two weapons sites, all within 40 to 90 miles of the epicenter.[10] Discussions with the United States on how to enhance the resistance of nuclear facilities to earthquakes could be productive. Another very sensitive but vital issue for U.S.-Chinese discussions is preventing nuclear leakage from North Korea and preparing to ensure adequate nuclear security in the event of political transition in that country if it is not denuclearized first.
  • Interest in nuclear power development in the Middle East is rising, and 16 nations have expressed interest in it.[11] Just before leaving office, the Bush administration signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates. The expansion of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure is one reason, among others, for this increase in regional interest in nuclear power. Growth on the scale currently estimated, however, could be dangerous and far exceed the ability of the IAEA to monitor effectively.[12] The Obama administration has pledged to double the U.S. contribution to the IAEA budget over the next four years, to a total of about $225 million annually.[13] One useful focus of this expanded funding could be to support enhanced IAEA monitoring in the region. In addition, the IAEA's activities could be supplemented under a proliferation prevention initiative by the creation of a U.S. or multilaterally funded nuclear monitoring and training effort in the region.
  • Asia is one of the world's fastest-growing biotechnology regions. In fact, the growth of publicly traded biotechnology companies in the Asia-Pacific region outpaced growth in the United States and Europe in 2007.[14] The international community has not agreed on uniform biosecurity standards, and there is a lack of knowledge and adherence to best biosecurity practices in a number of countries. That situation raises the risk of accidental or intentional misapplication of biotechnology as the industry expands. The State Department is already engaged on this issue, but its resources are inadequate to meet the challenge. Additional funding should be provided to expand the scope of efforts to improve biological security in Asia.

The new global targets of opportunity are important, but functional issues can and should drive an expanded proliferation prevention agenda.

New Tools to Drive the Agenda

The original CTR agenda grew out of a congressional initiative, but the drivers for a robust, globalized proliferation prevention effort could come from a number of other sources.

Expanding the Budget

To advance the proliferation prevention agenda, Congress and the administration need to act in the short term to ramp up the budget significantly in the nuclear and biological areas. Over the past several years, the international nuclear and biological threat reduction budget has remained essentially static, with occasional significant decreases and increases to certain programs.[15] The new administration reportedly has indicated that it will increase its fiscal year 2010 budget request to meet the president's initiative to accelerate control of loose nuclear materials. It has already taken a first step with the submission of its supplemental appropriations request, which contained $186.5 million for nonproliferation activities.[16]

Another step the administration reportedly is ready to take is to increase the budget for NNSA nuclear nonproliferation programs in fiscal year 2010 and then to substantially increase the budget for each of the next four years to a total increase of roughly $2.4 billion.[17] This would bring the NNSA nonproliferation budget up to about $3.5 billion by fiscal year 2015. This is an admirable financial goal and certainly should be enough money to secure vulnerable nuclear and radiological stockpiles. Yet, if the budget ramps up too slowly and gradually, it may not allow Obama to meet his four-year promise. Roughly $1 billion could be used by the NNSA alone to accelerate existing activities and capitalize on new opportunities in fiscal year 2010. Therefore, the budget ramp-up should be concentrated in the early years rather than the later years.

Clarifying Authorities

The Obama administration has acted on the long-standing proposal to create a nonproliferation czar whose job is to bring cohesion to the nonproliferation policy elements that are spread across multiple U.S. agencies.

One important action that the new czar could take is to clarify and improve the authorities that govern the use of existing CTR-related funds and future proliferation prevention budgets. For example, transfer authorities between agencies should be streamlined so that the agency best suited to carry out a specific nonproliferation task can do so as rapidly as possible without being hampered by bureaucracy or statutory limitations. Under current law, the State Department's Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF) is the only program allowed to finance work in a country that the United States has sanctioned, such as North Korea or Iran, without receiving a waiver to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act.

The "notwithstanding any other provision of law" authority enjoyed by the NDF should be expanded on a limited and trial basis to all other relevant agencies and programs. Agencies conducting nonproliferation programs need some unrestricted funding, perhaps 10 percent of the total as suggested by the NAS report, and the latitude to reprioritize funding based on changing conditions. Illustrating this need, even if the Defense and Energy Departments were cleared to work in North Korea, their programs may not have unobligated funds-i.e., funding that has not yet been allocated for a specific purpose-available for a new project. Although budgetary priority should be given to established program line items, small contingency funds are needed to address unexpected threats, and the current funding authorities are not well suited for this purpose.

In addition, U.S. programs should expand their ability to take contributions from foreign governments for relevant work and to send money to foreign countries if another country is leading an important nonproliferation effort. The NNSA Global Threat Reduction Initiative has already accepted funds from third parties, and Congress provided the same authorization this year to the NNSA's International Nuclear Material Protection and Cooperation program and Russian Plutonium Disposition program. These authorities should be used as a model for other agencies.

Finally, there are questions as to whether the United States has in place all the authorities necessary to recover, remove, and dispose of nuclear, radiological, and biological materials, especially those that may need to be returned to this country. A review of these authorities should be conducted, and any limitations should be remedied by appropriate legislative or executive action.

Creating New Initiatives

One of Obama's key nonproliferation goals is to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials and warheads within four years. Undoubtedly there will be considerable debate inside the administration about how to define and meet this goal, but there is a range of other initiatives that the administration should also pursue as part of a next-generation tool kit to combat WMD threats.

Nonproliferation Enterprise Fund. A "nonproliferation enterprise fund" would allow government programs to form more effective partnerships with the nongovernmental and university communities to assist in nuclear and other nonproliferation analysis. A part of this fund could be dedicated to the development of "the next generation of nonproliferation experts," who would be required to perform some government service in return for educational and training support. This proposal is similar to the collaboration between the federal government and U.S. research universities on energy issues and could be funded at a modest $25 million per year to start.

Multilateral WMD Rapid Reaction Force. Given the unpredictable nature of WMD crises, there is a need for domestic and international forces that would allow for quick and coordinated action in the face of a nuclear, radiological, or biological emergency or disarmament opportunity. This type of force would allow, in advance of a crisis, for the clear delineation of the roles and responsibilities among agencies and partner countries based on threat or opportunity scenarios. It would require dedicated funding for operations, transport, integrated training, and related issues. In addition, it would ensure that all the necessary legal authorities are put in place to allow for the rapid extraction and return of foreign nuclear, radiological, or biological materials and other assets to the United States or other countries if necessary.

Private-Public Partnership for Nonproliferation Funding. In the globalized environment, it is essential to look beyond purely governmental structures and address opportunities for partnership among government, civil society, and the private sector to create innovative nonproliferation solutions. Such collaboration could result in a new, multidisciplinary "Iron Triangle," with government institutions providing the authority and funding, nongovernmental organizations providing their unique analyses and creative approaches to emerging challenges, and the private sector, especially in the nuclear and biological areas, assuming a new partnership role and driving innovative solutions.

One proposal to operationalize this new cooperation is for the nuclear industry to contribute to a nonproliferation fund that could increase funding for IAEA activities or be used for other international nonproliferation purposes. One option is that, for every dollar in direct subsidies for new nuclear power plants that the U.S. government provides, the nuclear industry would be required to contribute a portion, perhaps 0.1 percent, to the nonproliferation fund. Alternatively, if the United States provides only loan guarantees for new nuclear plants, the industry would pay into the nonproliferation fund a small percentage of the underwriting costs of the government-funded guarantees. Another, more global alternative is to require utilities to contribute 0.01 cents of the price of each nuclear-generated kilowatt-hour to the nonproliferation fund.[18]

These ideas are similar to the responsibilities that governments have imposed on the nuclear industry to deal with waste management, and the cost could be 10 percent of that levy. In this case, it would link the nuclear power industry into the security dialogue, recognize explicitly the security implications of the expansion of nuclear power, offer a reputational benefit for the nuclear power industry, and increase the pool of funds available for addressing nuclear security challenges. Similar proposals that link the biotechnology industry into the biosecurity debate also should be explored.

New Treaties and Agreements. The U.S.-Russian strategic arms reduction treaties and the Chemical Weapons Convention have provided important drivers for the Defense Department CTR program and its nonproliferation spending priorities. In the near term, there may be a follow-on to START, which expires at the end of 2009. Because Obama has called for global reductions in nuclear weapons, the START process could be expanded to other nuclear-weapon states. In addition, the new administration has identified a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) as a U.S. policy goal. As these agreements are pursued, however, a number of other initiatives could be undertaken as part of a next-generation proliferation prevention regime.

  • UN Security Council Resolution 1540 Implementation: UN Security Council Resolution 1540 requires all nations to report on their nuclear, chemical, and biological security status and nonproliferation activities. Compliance with this mandate has been inconsistent. It would be very useful for the Global Partnership members to provide financial, technical, and manpower support to those countries that need to do a better job of reporting but do not have the resources.[19]
  • FMCT: An FMCT faces significant challenges. For example, India and Pakistan are opposed to the treaty and continue to produce fissile materials for their weapons programs. One possibility is for the five NPT nuclear-weapon states to take the lead in advance of the 2010 NPT Review Conference and announce that they will agree to end fissile material production. There could be significant challenges in this more limited concept as well, but these five states have stopped making fissile material for weapons, and this could be a common starting point.[20]
  • Global Partnership Reconceptualization: The G-8 Global Partnership is in need of reconfiguration and expansion. A new proposal is to create from the partnership a multilateral ready reserve that would train for and be prepared to respond to proliferation and WMD challenges.[21] The concept is not unusual, as some countries participate in this type of coalition under the PSI. The proposal for the Global Partnership, however, would expand the concept beyond cargo in transit and would allow for an interchangeable lineup of countries to address the challenges that arise. This approach would use PSI-type exercises, but with more structure and with a focus on the protection, removal, and elimination of WMD materials and infrastructure. The multilateral force would require identification of resources, material, and manpower and plans for short-notice mobilization and assignment of responsibilities.
  • Global Nuclear Security Standard: Despite the detailed technical information provided by the IAEA for the safeguarding of nuclear facilities and the other domestic and international conventions and regulations that govern nuclear material protection, there is no universally accepted standard for securing nuclear materials and weapons. The new administration, as part of its proposed Global Summit on Nuclear Security, should call for the establishment of a minimum nuclear security standard to jump-start this process.[22]
  • A Global Biosecurity Pact: The lack of broadly recognized and adhered-to international standards for biosecurity is a looming global danger. As the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism has pointed out, although biotechnology "has benefited humanity by enabling advances in medicine and in agriculture, it has also increased the availability of pathogens and technologies that can be used for sinister purposes."[23] There needs to be an effort to move all countries with life-science research to a common set of security standards. Such an agreement could provide for improved biotechnology trigger lists, beyond those maintained and observed by the Australia Group. These objectives will be extremely difficult to accomplish because the biotech industry is largely owned by private entities, is spreading rapidly around the globe, and generally resists demands for broad intrusiveness. As a first step, developing countries could be offered financial support to assist them in rising to the highest biosecurity and safety standards as defined by the World Health Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Funds also could be provided for the improvement of the "network of networks" that serves as the informal, voluntary, transparent monitoring and reporting structure on biological issues and developments. Additionally, the NNSA Second Line of Defense program and the Homeland Security Department's Container Security Initiative should explore the benefits of installing biodetection technologies along with their nuclear screening equipment overseas as an adjunct to the use of medical surveillance to detect pathogens and terrorist smuggling of biological agents.

Maintaining the Old Neighborhood

While the global expansion of the proliferation prevention agenda is pursued and loose nukes in new neighborhoods are locked down, it is important not to lose sight of the enormous security investment that the United States and other Global Partnership members have made in Russia and the other former Soviet states. All the countries involved in that effort must ensure that the quality of the equipment and training remains high as the Western countries hand over control to the former Soviet states. Congress has legislated that the bulk of U.S. funding for Russian nuclear security be completed by 2012. As a result, U.S. officials are in a dialogue with Russia on the issue of the long-term sustainability of the substantial U.S. investment in Russian security improvements, but the progress has been slow. The United States needs to continue its engagement with Russia and the other former Soviet states, and it needs to check the equipment periodically after the 2012 deadline.

In addition, several other initiatives beyond the current scope of the discussion could be undertaken. One is the installation of a satellite uplink on all portal monitors and perimeter security equipment. The satellites would provide real-time reporting on the equipment's operational status and would log security alerts and breaches. Because of the sensitive location of much of the security equipment in Russia, the information could be downloaded to a regional monitoring center that could be manned jointly by U.S. and Russian specialists. This effort could be supplemented by a U.S.-Russian nuclear security hotline that would allow for immediate communication on suspicious incidents. Such a connection already exists between the United States and Russia to reduce the risk of a nuclear exchange stemming from accident, miscalculation, or surprise attack,[24] and the IAEA manages an Incident and Emergency Center to monitor nuclear reactor safety around the globe.[25] This idea would extend these concepts to nuclear materials security. The proposal is likely to meet stiff resistance from the nuclear bureaucracy in Russia, and in the United States if the proposal is reciprocal, but that should not be a deterrent to action in support of greater nuclear security.

This concept could be expanded globally for civilian facilities monitored by the IAEA. In this case, the monitoring center could be manned by rotating international experts. But the goal would be the same: constant real-time monitoring of all nuclear facilities under safeguards, IAEA or domestic, and rapid global alerting and response to security breaches.

This concept could be supplemented by the establishment of regional training centers that could promote nuclear materials security in key regions around the globe. These centers would serve to cultivate a local security culture, improve efficiency by consolidating training courses rather than repeating training to multiple audiences, and provide ready access to best practices for new partners. These training centers could be initiated with U.S. funding but supplemented or ultimately fully supported by Global Partnership nations and the IAEA.


Obama made his first major nuclear security speech just 75 days after he took office, a signal of the importance he places on preventing nuclear proliferation and terrorism. The policies that he committed the United States to pursue are important for U.S. and global security, and they create a firm foundation for progress. Many of the policy proposals are well known, however, and most of the nuclear policy details were left unspoken. Perhaps more importantly, the acute dangers posed by biological terrorism and proliferation were not addressed.

As the new administration works to develop its full suite of policies, it must think beyond the mere expansion and adaptation of the existing arms control and threat reduction models and programs, and beyond the atom, and focus on how to construct a transformative next-generation proliferation prevention strategy. Creating a Global Proliferation Prevention Initiative would build on the current structures and include new policy ideas and tools, players and coalitions, and funding. It would squarely face the reality that domestic and international institutions and bureaucracies are having difficulty maintaining pace with evolving 21st-century threats and challenges. By tackling these issues early, creatively, and comprehensively, the United States can lead the world toward the enhanced global security and international stability that are so desperately needed.

Table 1: Obama’s Commitments to Securing Loose Nukes and Preventing Bioterrorism

In his April 5 Prague speech, President Barack Obama highlighted the need to ensure global nuclear security. Although his Prague remarks largely restated the nuclear nonproliferation goals that he had articulated during his campaign, they represented needed leadership on these globally vital issues. The table below summarizes Obama’s commitments to securing loose nuclear materials and preventing nuclear and biological terrorism. As the accompanying article explains, the administration should go further than Obama did in the Prague speech. In particular, it should develop a stronger focus on biosecurity and bioterrorism as well as embrace the new ideas, tools, players, coalitions, and funding that can result in the creation of a next-generation nonproliferation strategy that is adaptable and robust enough to meet 21st-century threats.

Securing Vulnerable Nuclear MaterialsSecuring Vulnerable Nuclear Materials
Campaign Commitments Prague Speech
Lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons materials at vulnerable sites within four years Undertake a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years
Work with Russia and other nations to implement a comprehensive set of standards to protect nuclear materials from theft Set new standards, expand U.S. cooperation with Russia, and pursue new partnerships to lock down sensitive materials
Build state capacity to prevent the theft, diversion, or spread of nuclear materials
Strengthen policing and interdiction efforts, such as by the institutionalization of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) Turn efforts such as the PSI and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism into international institutions
Increase pace of deployment of nuclear security detectors at key border crossings Build on efforts to break up black markets, detect and intercept materials in transit, and use financial tools to disrupt dangerous trade
Convene a summit on preventing nuclear terrorism in 2009 and regularly thereafter in order to agree on globally implemented measures to prevent nuclear terrorism Convene a Global Summit on Nuclear Security hosted by the United States within a year
Strengthen nuclear risk reduction work at the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State
Preventing Bioterrorism
Campaign Commitments
Provide assistance to states in meeting their commitments under UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and the Biological Weapons Convention
Strengthen U.S. intelligence collection overseas to identify and interdict would-be bioterrorists before they strike
Build capacity to mitigate the consequences of bioterrorism attacks, for example, by linking health care providers, hospitals, and public health agencies and investing in electronic health information systems
Accelerate development of new medicines, vaccines, and production capabilities
Expand development of bioforensics program
Create a Shared Security Partnership that forges an international intelligence and law enforcement infrastructure to take down terrorist networks

Sources: Arms Control Association, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Obama for America, Organizing for America, U.S. embassy in Prague

Data compiled by Michelle Marchesano, Partnership for Global Security



Kenneth N. Luongo is president of the Partnership for Global Security and a former senior adviser on nonproliferation policy to the secretary of energy.


1. Total fiscal year 2009 funding for international nuclear and biological proliferation prevention includes funds from the Departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and State. Excluding the Homeland Security Department, the amount is $1.7 billion. Michelle Marchesano, "Funding Analysis of FY09 International WMD Security Programs," PGS Policy Update, April 2, 2009, www.partnershipforglobalsecurity.org/documents/fy09_wmd_security_programs_final_funding.pdf.

2. In fiscal year 2009, the cumulative Russia/FSU component accounted for more than 60 percent of the total combined funding of the four major U.S. government threat reduction programs. The individual percentages for the four programs are as follows: Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction program, 98 percent ($424 million); Energy Department's International Nuclear Material Protection and Cooperation program (INMPC), 56 percent ($224 million); Energy Department's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), 34 percent ($134 million); and State Department's Global Threat Reduction program, roughly 50 percent ($30 million). Marchesano, "Funding Analysis of FY09 International WMD Security Programs," and personal communication with program officials.

3. Beginning in 2002, the annual authorization bills began to include language that expanded the authorities of programs in the Defense, Energy, and State Departments to conduct threat reduction work globally. For a full list, see Committee on Strengthening and Expanding the Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program and Committee on International Security and Arms Control Policy and Global Affairs, "Global Security Engagement," National Academy of Sciences, 2009 (hereinafter NAS Global Security Engagement report). Most recently, in fiscal year 2009, $10 million was provided for the Defense Department's CTR activities outside the former Soviet Union. Marchesano, "Funding Analysis of FY09 International WMD Security Programs."

4. "G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit Leaders Declaration," July 8, 2008, para. 64, www.mofa.go.jp/policy/economy/summit/2008/doc/doc080714__en.html.

5. Barack Obama, "Remarks of President Barack Obama," Prague, April 5, 2009, http://prague.usembassy.gov/obama.html.

6. NAS Global Security Engagement report.

7. For the text of the supplemental appropriations request, dated April 9, 2009, see www.whitehouse.gov/omb/asset.aspx?AssetId=1086 (hereinafter president's supplemental appropriations request).

8. Richard Stone, "A Wary Pas de Deux," Science, September 17, 2004, pp. 1696-1703.

9. Personal communication with Pakistani officials.

10. Gethin Chamberlain, "Chinese Earthquake: Nuclear Sites Alerted," Telegraph.co.uk, May 17, 2008, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/1974263/Chinese-earthquake-nuclear-sites-alerted.html.

11. Sharon Squassoni, Nuclear Energy: Rebirth or Resuscitation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C., March 2009, p. 55, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/nuclear_energy_rebirth_resuscitation.pdf.

12. For growth projections, see ibid., pp. 48-61.

13. See www.barackobama.com/pdf/issues/HomelandSecurityFactSheet.pdf.

14. Ernst and Young, "Beyond Borders: Global Biotechnology Report 2008," 2008, p. 93, http://www.ey.com/US/en/Industries/Biotechnology/Biotechnology_Beyond_Borders_2008.

15. Marchesano, "Funding Analysis of FY09 International WMD Security Programs"; Partnership for Global Security, "International WMD Security Programs Funding," April 2, 2009, www.partnershipforglobalsecurity.org/documents/fy06_09_cumulative_wmd_security_program_funding.pdf.

16. The president's request includes $89.5 million for the NNSA and $97 million for the State Department. Within the NNSA's $89.5 million amount, $55 million is for the INMPC "to counter emerging threats at nuclear facilities in Russia and other countries of concern though detecting and deterring insider threats through security upgrades"; $25 million is for GTRI "to complete disablement tasks and to initiate spent fuel disposition and other denuclearization efforts" in North Korea; and $9.5 million is for the Nonproliferation and International Security program "for the disablement and dismantlement support for the denuclearization efforts" in North Korea. Within the State Department's $97 million amount that is directed to the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund, "$47 million is to support dismantlement of nuclear facilities in North Korea and $50 million is to provide border security equipment, training, and program management for Egypt to prevent smuggling of illicit goods into Gaza." President's supplemental appropriation request, pp. 68, 88.

17. "Sustained Nonproliferation Increase Called For," Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor, Vol. 13, No. 6 (February 16, 2009), p. 3.

18. The latter alternative was developed by Frank von Hippel and could generate approximately $80 million per year in the United States and $250 million per year on a global basis. For more information, see International Panel on Fissile Materials, "Global Fissile Material Report 2008," 2008, p. 115, n. 93, www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/gfmr08.pdf.

19. For more analysis of what is required to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1540, see Elizabeth Turpen, "Non-State Actors and Nonproliferation: The NGO Role in Implementing UNSCR 1540," August 6, 2007, www.stimson.org/pub.cfm?ID=538; Lawrence Scheinman, ed., "Implementing Resolution 1540: The Role of Regional Organizations," UNIDIR/2008/8, September 2008, www.unidir.org/bdd/fiche-article.php?ref_article=2747.

20. "Only India, Pakistan and possibly Israel, continue to produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons. The United States, United Kingdom, Russia, [and] France...have officially announced an end to their production for weapons, while China has indicated this unofficially." International Panel on Fissile Materials, "Global Fissile Material Report 2008," p. 7. This FMCT proposal has also been promoted by former State Department official Ambassador Norman A. Wulf.

21. Partnership for Global Security, "G-8 Global Partnership: Adapting to New Realities," Washington, D.C., July 9, 2008, www.partnershipforglobalsecurity.org/Documents/press_release_g8gp_final.pdf (press release).

22. See Matthew Bunn, "Securing the Bomb 2007," September 2007, pp. 40, 107-108, www.nti.org/e_research/securingthebomb07.pdf.

23. World at Risk: the Report of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, New York: Vintage, 2008.

24. A 1963 agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union established a direct communication link between the two states. "Hot Line Agreement (1963)," atomicarchive.com, n.d., www.atomicarchive.com/Treaties/Treaty2.shtml.

25. Kirstie Hansen, "A Life-Saving Hotline: The IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre Answers the Call," November 9, 2006, www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Features/IEC/hotline.html.


In the initial weeks of the Obama administration, former Vice President Dick Cheney stated that there was a "high probability" of a terrorist attempt to use a nuclear weapon or biological agent and that "whether they can pull it off depends on what kind of policies we put in place." President Barack Obama, in his April 5 Prague speech, said that terrorists "are determined to buy, build, or steal" a nuclear weapon and that the international community must work "without delay" to ensure that they never acquire one. Obama also outlined a number of policies for locking down vulnerable nuclear material and strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime. (Continue)

Abdul Qadeer Khan Freed From House Arrest

Peter Crail

In February, Pakistan lifted most restrictions on former Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan, who had organized an extensive black market network contributing nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and perhaps other countries. The Islamabad High Court Feb. 6 declared Khan a "free citizen," although still subject to some undisclosed security measures, after finding that charges against Khan for nuclear smuggling could not be proved.

Khan has been under house arrest since 2004 when he confessed to the charges and was pardoned by then-President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Since Musharraf was removed from power in 2008, Khan has recanted his confession and now maintains that it "was not of [his] own free will." (See ACT, July/August 2008.)

Khan is considered a hero by many in Pakistan due to his instrumental role in that country's nuclear weapons program. He first used his nuclear smuggling network in the 1970s and 1980s to acquire the uranium-enrichment technology used to produce material for Pakistan's nuclear arms.

The United States has called the lifting of restrictions "regrettable." Department of State spokesperson Gordon Duguid said that Washington believes that Khan "remains a serious proliferation risk." On Jan. 12, the United States placed financial restrictions on Khan, as well as 12 individuals and three companies associated with his network. The sanctions freeze any assets the individuals or entities have under U.S. jurisdiction and prevent U.S. persons and entities from doing business with them.

Islamabad has continued to rebuff efforts by the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to question Khan about his smuggling activities. Pakistani officials have also insisted that Khan's nuclear trafficking network has been dismantled and that he no longer poses a serious proliferation risk. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters Feb. 7, "We have successfully broken the network that [Khan] had set up, and today he has no say and has no access to any of the sensitive areas of Pakistan."

Members of Congress have expressed concern that not enough has been done to address the potential that Khan's network may still be operating. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, welcomed the Jan. 12 announcement of U.S. sanctions but expressed concern that they were "belated" and may not prevent the network from continuing to operate. He asserted in a Jan. 12 statement that "the sanctions do not put an end to the matter; equipment and technology from this network may still be circulating, and new suppliers could well spring up to take Khan's place." Berman suggested in a Feb. 6 statement that Congress would take into account Pakistan's refusal to provide access to Khan as it reviews U.S. policy and assistance toward Islamabad.

In this regard, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation, and trade, introduced a resolution Feb. 12 proposing that Pakistan's pursuit of its nonproliferation commitments "should be a guiding element in determining [U.S.] policy toward that country, including with respect to [U.S.] bilateral assistance."

Khan Middleman Admits CIA Collusion

Meanwhile, a key figure in Khan's network has recently admitted that he cooperated with U.S. intelligence agencies to undermine and halt the network's nuclear smuggling activities. Swiss national Urs Tinner said in a documentary called "The Spy From the Rhine Valley," which aired on Swiss television Jan. 22, that he helped the CIA halt assistance the Khan network was providing for Libya's nuclear weapons program.

Germany arrested Tinner in 2004 and extradited him to Switzerland on suspicion of smuggling nuclear technology in violation of Swiss export control laws. Tinner worked with the Khan network to manufacture centrifuges used to enrich uranium. The network sold these centrifuges and components to Libya, as well as countries such as Iran and North Korea, to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

Tinner's father, Fredrich, and brother, Marco, were also arrested on similar charges. As of January, all three had been released on bail. The Tinners were not included among the individuals sanctioned by the United States in January.

The same day the documentary aired, the Swiss parliament issued a report that supported Tinner's claim of cooperation with U.S. intelligence agencies as well as suspicions that the Swiss federal government destroyed evidence related to the Tinner case under pressure from Washington. (See ACT, July/August 2008.)

The files in question consisted of information related to the Tinners' operations in the Khan network and included blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapons design. According to the report, after consulting and sharing the information with U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA, the Swiss federal government decided to destroy all of the documentation it acquired from the Tinners. Swiss prosecutors and the Tinners' defense lawyers objected to this destruction due to the impact on the criminal case.

Moreover, the report also found that, under U.S. pressure, Swiss authorities granted immunity to the Tinners from a Swiss criminal law prohibiting its nationals from assisting the intelligence services of another country.

The parliamentary report concluded that the Swiss federal government should have accepted a U.S. offer to take control of the files and separate the sensitive nuclear weapons blueprints from the other information rather than destroy them.

In February, Pakistan lifted most restrictions on former Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan, who had organized an extensive black market network contributing nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and perhaps other countries. The Islamabad High Court Feb. 6 declared Khan a "free citizen," although still subject to some undisclosed security measures, after finding that charges against Khan for nuclear smuggling could not be proved. (Continue)

IAEA: Syrian Reactor Explanation Suspect

Peter Crail

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report Feb. 19 indicating that Syria has failed to provide adequate information regarding a destroyed facility the West suspects was once a clandestine nuclear reactor. The agency stated that a Feb. 17 letter it received from Syria in response to questions regarding the site and potentially related locations and activities "did not address most of the questions raised in the agency's communications." In addition, Damascus has only allowed the agency to carry out a single visit to the site of the destroyed facility and has not provided the IAEA with access to additional sites as requested.

Israel destroyed the facility, located at a site called Dair al Zour, in a September 2007 airstrike. In April 2008, U.S. intelligence agencies alleged that the facility had been a nuclear reactor under construction with North Korean assistance and that the reactor was modeled on North Korea's Yongbyon reactor, which Pyongyang used to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons.

The IAEA has called on Israel and other countries to share any information on the destroyed facility, including satellite imagery. Washington briefed the agency in April 2008 on its assessment that the destroyed facility was a nuclear reactor.

Following the Israeli airstrike, Syria razed the site and has since constructed another facility in its place. Damascus claims that the original facility and the new one are military installations that are not nuclear related.

During the agency's initial visit in June 2008, it discovered microscopic uranium particles at the site of the destroyed facility. Although the small size of the particles made extensive analysis difficult, the IAEA indicated that the particles consisted of chemically processed uranium, raising concerns that the site had some nuclear purpose. In regard to the uranium particles, a senior UN official said in November, "[T]hat kind of material should not be there." (See ACT, December 2008.)

The recent report stated that the agency found additional particles as a result of continued analysis of samples from its June 2008 visit. The report also noted that the uranium is "of a type not included in Syria's declared inventory of nuclear material." Syria maintains a Chinese-built miniature research reactor under IAEA safeguards and has conducted small-scale experiments to extract uranium from phosphates.

The potential origin and use of the uranium that was the source of the particles remains unclear. A senior UN official explained during a Feb. 19 background briefing that "the chemical composition and some characteristics could be consistent with uranium used in a nuclear reactor" but further analysis is still needed. Moreover, the official noted that the particles discovered were in the form of uranium oxide, rather than the metallic uranium form used in North Korea's Yongbyon reactor, but left open the possibility that the uranium could have been oxidized as a result of the Israeli airstrike.

Syria claimed that the uranium particles originated from the Israeli munitions used to destroy the facility. The IAEA assessed in its February report, however, that "there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles." A senior UN official said in November that no depleted uranium particles had been found. (See ACT, December 2008.) Uranium used in munitions is generally in the form of depleted uranium due to its high density. Israel stated in a Dec. 24, 2008, letter to the agency that it "could not have been the source of the uranium particles found on the site of the nuclear reactor."

In addition to the uranium particles discovered in the agency's environmental sampling analysis, a senior UN official said Feb. 19 that some graphite particles were found at the site. The presence of graphite may be significant because North Korea's Yongbyon reactor uses graphite to increase the number of fission reactions in the reactor.

The official noted that because the agency is still analyzing the samples to determine whether the graphite would be of a type used in a reactor, this information was not included in the report.

In order to carry out further analysis of remnants of the facility, the agency has requested that Syria provide access once again to the site and to salvaged equipment and debris from the destroyed facility.

In addition to the analysis carried out at the Dair al Zour site, the agency is also examining Syrian procurement activities that could be consistent with the construction of a nuclear reactor. A senior UN official Feb. 19 said that Syria has acknowledged these procurement efforts but claims that they were not nuclear related.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report Feb. 19 indicating that Syria has failed to provide adequate information regarding a destroyed facility the West suspects was once a clandestine nuclear reactor. The agency stated that a Feb. 17 letter it received from Syria in response to questions regarding the site and potentially related locations and activities "did not address most of the questions raised in the agency's communications." In addition, Damascus has only allowed the agency to carry out a single visit to the site of the destroyed facility and has not provided the IAEA with access to additional sites as requested. (Continue)

Learning From the A.Q. Khan Affair

Daryl G. Kimball

The world's most notorious nuclear proliferator is once again a free man. Worried about what he might reveal in court about Pakistan's complicity and eager to demonstrate its independence from Washington, the fragile government of Prime Minister Asif Ali Zadari allowed the release last month of the country's former nuclear weapons program chief, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

For more than a decade, Khan was the mastermind of a far-flung global black market network that delivered advanced nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and perhaps others.

According to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, ''[T]he so-called A.Q. Khan affair is a closed chapter." The full extent of and damage from Khan's dealings, however, are still very much a mystery.

Following Khan's public confession in 2004, Pakistani authorities have shielded him from interrogation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or U.S. officials. The conditions for further onward proliferation still exist because Pakistan continues to use the black market to expand its own nuclear weapons capability.

Days after Khan's Feb. 6 release from house arrest, all Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg could do was express "deep concern" to his Pakistani counterparts.

The release of Khan and the tepid U.S. response reinforce the perception, built up over decades of dealings with Pakistan and its rival, India, that U.S. nuclear proliferation concerns will always take a back seat to other geostrategic and economic interests. Even as the new Obama administration seeks further help from Pakistan to deal with al Qaeda and the Taliban, it must do far more to change such perceptions and avoid the mistakes of its predecessors.

Since the 1970s, successive U.S. administrations have passed up opportunities to disrupt Khan's activities and Pakistan's nuclear program. In his capacity as an engineer with the European uranium-enrichment consortium, Khan had access to advanced centrifuge designs and contacts with key suppliers. Unfortunately, Western intelligence agencies failed to act on early clues that Khan was preparing to take his knowledge back to Pakistan to aid its nascent bomb program.

By 1975, Pakistan began to purchase uranium-enrichment components from European suppliers, and four years later, it was apparent to U.S. intelligence that Pakistan was building a large-scale enrichment plant at Kahuta. The United States responded with nonproliferation sanctions, but months later, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Consequently, Washington's proliferation worries were swept under the rug to win Islamabad's support for the anti-communist counterinsurgency.

By the mid-1980s, it was clear that Pakistan had crossed the nuclear weapons threshold. Yet, not until 1990, after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, did President George H.W. Bush officially determine that Pakistan possessed a nuclear device, which triggered wide-ranging sanctions.

Meanwhile, Khan traveled widely, developing Pakistan's nuclear weapons supply network. Numerous accounts suggest that the U.S. and Dutch governments could have detained him but did not. Instead they sought to monitor his activities and avoid revealing the role of European companies in the Pakistani bomb effort.

Following the tit-for-tat Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests of 1998, U.S. sanctions were tightened further, and Washington pressed the South Asian rivals to exercise nuclear restraint. By this time, Khan had passed nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and others. U.S. officials were worried about his contacts but failed to take decisive action.

After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Washington once again began to funnel billions of dollars in military aid to Islamabad, including nuclear capable F-16 fighter bombers, with the goal of maintaining cooperation in the U.S. war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The George W. Bush administration compounded the damage in 2005 by proposing to exempt India from key U.S. and international nuclear trade restrictions. The arrangement, which will indirectly increase India's fissile material production potential, has already spurred Pakistan to accelerate its bomb production capacity.

Now, President Barack Obama and other world leaders must pursue policies that maintain Pakistan's support for anti-terrorism efforts without sacrificing the struggle to stop the spread of the world's most dangerous weapons and slow the ongoing nuclear buildup in one of the world most dangerous regions.

To start, U.S. aid should focus on Pakistan's economic and political development, and further military assistance should be conditioned on Islamabad's support for nuclear restraint. At a minimum, U.S. officials must leverage its aid to win full Pakistani cooperation in the IAEA investigation of the Khan network and certify that Pakistan has finally ended all black market nuclear activity.

Washington must also renew regional diplomacy aimed at persuading India and Pakistan to put the brakes on their nuclear arms race. A good starting point would be to call on Pakistan, along with India, China, and other states with unsafeguarded plutonium-separation plants, to suspend plutonium production for weapons pending the conclusion of a global, verifiable fissile material production ban.

Such a course may be tough for the Obama team to implement, but failure to do so risks even more severe nuclear proliferation consequences in the years ahead.


The world's most notorious nuclear proliferator is once again a free man. Worried about what he might reveal in court about Pakistan's complicity and eager to demonstrate its independence from Washington, the fragile government of Prime Minister Asif Ali Zadari allowed the release last month of the country's former nuclear weapons program chief, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

For more than a decade, Khan was the mastermind of a far-flung global black market network that delivered advanced nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and perhaps others. (Continue)


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