Bush handed blueprint to seize Pakistan's nuclear arsenal
Bush handed blueprint to seize Pakistan's nuclear
· Architect of Iraq surge draws up takeover options
· US fears army's Islamists might grab weapons
Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark
Saturday December 1, 2007
The man who devised the Bush administration's Iraq
troop surge has urged the US to consider sending elite
troops to Pakistan to seize its nuclear weapons if the
country descends into chaos.
In a series of scenarios drawn up for Pakistan,
Frederick Kagan, a former West Point military
historian, has called for the White House to consider
various options for an unstable Pakistan.
These include: sending elite British or US troops to
secure nuclear weapons capable of being transported
out of the country and take them to a secret storage
depot in New Mexico or a "remote redoubt" inside
Pakistan; sending US troops to Pakistan's
north-western border to fight the Taliban and
al-Qaida; and a US military occupation of the capital
Islamabad, and the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and
Baluchistan if asked for assistance by a fractured
Pakistan military, so that the US could shore up
President Pervez Musharraf and General Ashfaq Kayani,
who became army chief this week.
"These are scenarios and solutions. They are designed
to test our preparedness. The United States simply
could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan
descended into the abyss," Kagan, who is with the
American Enterprise Institute, a thinktank with strong
ideological ties to the Bush administration, told the
Guardian. "We need to think now about our options in
Kagan argued that the rise of Sunni extremism in
Pakistan, coupled with the proliferation of al-Qaida
bases in the north-west, posed a real possibility of
terrorists staging a coup that would give them access
to a nuclear device. He also noted how sections of
Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment
continued to be linked to Islamists and warned that
the army, demoralised by having to fight in Waziristan
and parts of North-West Frontier Province, might
retreat from the borders, leaving a vacuum that would
be filled by radicals. Worse, the military might
split, with a radical faction trying to take over
Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
Kagan accepted that the Pakistani military was not in
the grip of Islamists. "Pakistan's officer corps and
ruling elites remain largely moderate. But then again,
Americans felt similarly about the shah's regime and
look what happened in 1979," he said, referring to
The scenarios received a public airing two weeks ago
in an article for the New York Times by Kagan and
Michael O'Hanlon, an analyst at the Brookings
Institution, who has ties to the Democrats.
They have been criticised in the US as well as
Pakistan, with Kagan accused of drawing up plans for
another US occupation of a Muslim country.
But the scenarios are regarded with some seriousness
because of Kagan's influence over thinking in the Bush
administration as the architect of the Iraq troop
surge, which is conceded to have brought some
improvements in security.
A former senior state department official who works as
a contractor with the government and is familiar with
current planning on Pakistan told the Guardian:
"Governments are supposed to think the unthinkable.
But these ideas, coming as they do from a man of
significant influence in Washington's militarist camp,
seem prescriptive and have got tongues wagging - even
in a town like Washington, built on hyperbole."
Kagan said he was not calling for an occupation of
"I have been arguing the opposite. We cannot invade,
only work with the consent of elements of the Pakistan
military," he said.
"But we do have to calculate how to quantify and then
respond to a crisis that is potentially as much a
threat as Soviet tanks once were. Pakistan may be the
next big test."
The political and security crises there have led the
Bush administration to conclude that Pakistan has
become a more dangerous place than it was before
Musharraf took over in the coup of October 1999.
One Pentagon official said last week that the defence
department had indeed been war-gaming some of Kagan's
A report by Kagan and O'Hanlon in April highlighted
"The only serious response to this international
environment is to develop armed forces capable of
protecting America's vital interests throughout this
dangerous time," it said.
But in Pakistan, aides to Musharraf yesterday
dismissed Kagan's study as "hyperbole".