US secretly aids Pak in guarding nuke weapons: NYT

November 18th, 2007 - 2:17 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 18 (ANI): The Bush administration is said to have been secretly aiding President General Pervez Musharraf in securing Pakistans nuclear weapons.

The New York Times quoted current and former senior administration officials as saying that over the past six years, Washington has spent almost 100 million dollars on a highly classified program.

The story reported by David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, however, said that with the future of Pakistans leadership in doubt, debate is intensifying about whether Washington has done enough to help protect the warheads and laboratories, and whether Islamabads reluctance to reveal critical details about its arsenal has undercut the effectiveness of the continuing security effort.

The aid, buried in secret portions of the federal budget, paid for the training of Pakistani personnel in the United States and the construction of a nuclear security training centre in Pakistan, a facility that American officials say is nowhere near completion, even though it was supposed to be in operation this year.

A raft of equipment from helicopters to night-vision goggles to nuclear detection equipment was given to Pakistan to help secure its nuclear material, its warheads, and the laboratories that were the site of the worst known case of nuclear proliferation in the atomic age, said the daily.

American officials said that they believe the arsenal was safe at the moment, and that they take at face value Pakistani assurances that security is vastly improved. But in many cases, the Pakistani government has been reluctant to show American officials how or where the gear is actually used.

That is because the Pakistanis do not want to reveal the locations of their weapons or the amount or type of new bomb-grade fuel the country is now producing, it added.

The paper said that the American program was created after the 2001 9/11 attacks, when the Bush administration debated whether to share with Pakistan one of the crown jewels of American nuclear protection technology, known as permissive action links, or PALS, a system used to keep a weapon from detonating without proper codes and authorizations.

However, it was decided that not to share the system with the Pakistanis because of legal restrictions.

While many nuclear experts in the federal government favoured offering the PALS system because they considered Pakistans arsenal among the worlds most vulnerable to terrorist groups, some administration officials feared that sharing the technology would teach Pakistan too much about American weaponry, it said.

The daily went on to claim that it has known details of the secret program for more than three years, based on interviews with a range of American officials and nuclear experts, some of whom were concerned that Pakistans arsenal remained vulnerable.

The newspaper agreed to delay publication of the article after considering a request from the Bush administration, which argued that premature disclosure could hurt the effort to secure the weapons, the daily added.
So far, the amount spent by the US on the classified nuclear security program, less than 100 million dollars, amounts to slightly less than one percent of the roughly 10 billion dollars in known American aid to Pakistan since the September 11 attacks, the paper said, adding that most of that money has gone for assistance in counter-terrorism activities against the Taliban and al Qaeda. (ANI)

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