Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development likely to be next target of US: BBC Urdu

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development likely to be next target of US: BBC Urdu
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LONDON: Pakistan's nuclear weapons related sanctions could be next in line for United States Trump's administration if Pakistan fails to comply with the US demands as made out by US President in its Pakistan Afghanistan policy, BBC Urdu has reported.

Donald Trump had already hinted about the fear of the Pakistan nuclear weapons reaching at the hands of the terrorists in his Pakistan Afghanistan policy speech.

The U.S. long term presence in Afghanistan is primarily about preventing terrorist groups operating there, but there is some reporting that suggests elements of the U.S. government are wary of losing basing in Afghanistan that is useful to monitor Pakistani terrorist groups and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development efforts. 

After the United States was evicted from Shamsi, it reportedly maintained the ability to operate drones from airbases in Jalalabad, Bagram, and Kandahar. U.S. fears over Pakistani nuclear stewardship have oscillated over time, but such concerns have repeatedly appeared “at the top” of U.S. national security worries, and Trump reemphasized them on Monday night. Academic, former U.S. official, and War on the Rocks senior editor Stephen Tankel identifies “keeping militants from getting their hands on nuclear material” as a vital security interest in Pakistan. 

This interest is comingled with another, “critical interest” in “preventing Indo-Pakistani nuclear escalation,” since Tankel assesses “weapons are most likely to fall into terrorists’ hands if forward-deployed during a conflict with India.” Pakistan likely possesses more than 100 nuclear weapons today and might possess fissile material for up to 200 or 300 nuclear weapons.

These U.S. interests — collecting intelligence on potential radicals in the Pakistani diaspora in the West, operating drones over Pakistani territory to engage in targeted assassinations of dangerous terrorists, resupplying the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, and preventing the loss of control of Pakistan nuclear weapons — are substantially more important than the list of U.S. grievances against Pakistan. 

Pakistani support of groups that have targeted U.S. forces and its support of anti-India groups that have periodically targeted U.S. citizens may well be a moral travesty, but geopolitically it may be less costly than losing Pakistan’s cooperation in other areas.

To be sure, the pro and con columns are not neatly separated. Quietly accepting Pakistani support of terrorist groups may ultimately endanger the foremost U.S. security interest in Pakistan: preventing the loss of a nuclear weapon or other sensitive nuclear technology to radical non-state groups – a fear Trump raised in his speech. 

Violent extremist groups are ultimately a cancer on Pakistani society that pose a mortal danger to it. Already, the military is hesitant to confront anti-Afghan and anti-India groups in part because it seeks to triage the threats to Pakistani society, prioritizing those militants that actively target the Pakistani state while nudging remaining radicals to focus their zealous energies elsewhere.

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