How Safe Are Pakistan’s Nukes?

Lisa Curtis /

A recently-released study by British academic Shaun Gregory that claims Pakistani nuclear complexes have been attacked on three occasions in the last two years has stirred fresh concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Ensuring that Pakistani nukes stay out of the hands of terrorists certainly must be priority number one for the U.S. government. However, there is little need to panic about this issue, at least in the short-term.

The study cites three attacks since November 2007 – one on a nuclear missile facility, one at a nuclear air base, and one a year ago at an armament complex at one of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons assembly sites – as evidence that terrorists are getting closer to gaining access to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. But as one unnamed U.S. intelligence official noted to reporters, these facilities are well-known, large military facilities and it is not surprising that militants would target them. A more recent attack on a bus traveling through Rawalpindi carrying workers from one of Pakistan’s nuclear labs also has raised concern, since it demonstrates that al-Qaeda does likely have some information about the location and activities of Pakistan’s nuclear programs. (more…)