Afghanistan Pullout Complicates U.S. Response to Any Regional Nuclear Crisis

Global Security Newswire Staff
Jan. 27, 2014, 9:19 a.m.

If all U.S. forces leave Afgh­anistan at year’s end, plans for re­spond­ing to any nuc­le­ar crisis in Pakistan or In­dia could be jeop­ard­ized, the New York Times re­ports.

Ef­forts to fi­nal­ize with Afghan Pres­id­ent Ham­id Kar­zai an agree­ment that would al­low U.S. troops to re­main in the coun­try past the end of 2014 have been rocky. If com­prom­ise can­not be reached and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion chooses to with­draw all forces, the CIA drone bases built in Afgh­anistan might have to shut down be­cause they would be un­pro­tec­ted, uniden­ti­fied U.S. of­fi­cials told the Times.

The fa­cil­it­ies per­mit the United States to fly re­motely pi­loted air­craft in­to nearby Pakistan for mis­sions against al-Qaida or to mon­it­or po­ten­tial threats to that na­tion’s ex­pand­ing nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is suf­fi­ciently wor­ried that a fi­nal ac­cord with Kar­zai might not be reached that it has con­vened a task force of policy, armed forces and in­tel­li­gence ex­perts to brain­storm op­tions for clos­ing the se­cur­ity gap that could be cre­ated if the drone bases have to close, ac­cord­ing to the Times re­port.

Drones launched from oth­er U.S. bases would take longer to reach South Asia, which would com­plic­ate mon­it­or­ing ef­forts and any mis­sion to re­spond to a po­ten­tial nuc­le­ar crisis in Pakistan or In­dia.

Pakistan-based ex­trem­ist groups over the years have staged a num­ber of mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful strikes against mil­it­ary bases in the coun­try and are a ser­i­ous nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity con­cern to the United States. Last year doc­u­ments leaked by former gov­ern­ment con­tract­or Ed­ward Snowden re­vealed that mon­it­or­ing Pakistan’s nuc­le­ar, bio­lo­gic­al and chem­ic­al fa­cil­it­ies con­sumes a sig­ni­fic­ant part of the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­munity’s at­ten­tion.

A 2009 in­cid­ent that led Wash­ing­ton to worry that some Pakistani atom­ic sub­stances had gone miss­ing promp­ted Pres­id­ent Obama to dir­ect that a long-term sur­veil­lance and search cap­ab­il­ity be cre­ated for the re­gion, the Times re­por­ted.

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