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Policy on Pakistan

Posted by Sohini Sircar on June 3, 2009

The Obama Administration is embracing the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, but understands that attaining this goal will take time. The President has made it clear that the United States will keep its nuclear deterrent capabilities for the time being. Yet the U.S. must take concrete steps to realize this vision in order to prevent our greatest threat today: nuclear terrorism.

One step must include safeguarding nuclear weapons and materials in Pakistan. We need to make sure that al-Qaeda never lays claim to nuclear weapons or material in this vulnerable nation. As the Pakistani nuclear program continues to develop with more materials, transportation of materials, and scientists, the likelihood that terrorists obtain nuclear materials increases. While Pakistan has taken steps to safeguard its nuclear weapons, vulnerabilities still exist. According to a Washington Post article (5/28/09), U.S. intelligence officials have acknowledged that, in the case of imminent risk, they have plans to use American troops to protect or remove Pakistani weapons.

Pakistan achieved notoriety in the presidential campaign in the summer of 2007 when Obama said he believed the United States should hunt al-Qaeda forces in Pakistan. The presidential candidate stated, “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President [Pervez] Musharraf will not act, we will.” Obama recently said that the “growing sanctuary” for al-Qaeda in Pakistan is a result of failed military strategy in Iraq.

The United States needs a policy that “compels Pakistani action against terrorists who threaten our common security and are using the FATA and the Northwest Territories of Pakistan as a safe haven,” said Obama in a July 2008 speech. The same week, in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press, he also said that too much U.S. financial assistance to Pakistan has aided the military, and “not enough of it has been in the form of building schools and building infrastructure in the country to help develop and give opportunity to the Pakistani people.” 

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