US war games weigh options to secure Pak's nuke arsenal
"Everybody's scrambling on this," Oakley was quoted as saying.
A participant of the last year's exercise said the conclusion of that war game was that there were no palatable ways to forcibly ensure the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons -- and that even studying scenarios for intervention could worsen the risks by undermining US-Pakistani cooperation.
"It's an unbelievably daunting problem," said this participant, a former Pentagon official, on the condition of anonymity.
He went on to say that the planners really have not developed answers for how to deal with nuclear weapons stashed in Pakistan's big cities and high mountain ranges.
"The bottom line is, it's the nightmare scenario," added retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson, who participated in an earlier exercise that simulated a breakup of Pakistan. "It has loose nukes, hard to find, potentially in the hands of Islamic extremists, and there aren't a lot of good military options," he said.
According to an expert on Pakistani terrorism, who did not attend last year's war game but learned about some of its conclusions, senior US officials "weren't pleased with what the game told them; they were quite shocked."
The US efforts related to securing Pakistan's nuclear arsenal involve "really, really black SAPs" -- that is, among the most highly guarded "special access programs," he said.
Zia Mian, a Princeton University physicist and expert on nuclear proliferation in South Asia, expressed the view that such exercises "may actually make things worse." Among other negative repercussions, he predicted, any US effort to secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal "would really increase anti-Americanism."
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