Obama Says He is Confident About Pakistani Nuclear Security

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 24, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama as­ser­ted he was con­fid­ent Pakistan is com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing se­cur­ity around its nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al on Wed­nes­day, just weeks after it was re­vealed the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­munity has made sur­veil­lance of the South Asi­an coun­try’s nuc­le­ar sites one of its top pri­or­it­ies.

In a joint state­ment re­leased fol­low­ing a meet­ing at the White House between Obama and Pakistani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif, the U.S. lead­er “re­it­er­ated his con­fid­ence in Pakistan’s com­mit­ment and ded­ic­a­tion to nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity and re­cog­nized that Pakistan is fully en­gaged with the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity on nuc­le­ar safety and se­cur­ity is­sues.”

The U.S. gov­ern­ment in the past has pub­licly touted Is­lamabad’s com­mit­ment to nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity when new con­cerns were raised that Pakistani-based ex­trem­ists — who have car­ried out at­tacks in re­cent years on large Pakistani mil­it­ary bases — might be able to pen­et­rate one of the coun­try’s fa­cil­it­ies where nuc­le­ar weapons or ma­ter­i­als are held. The valid­ity of those pub­lic as­sur­ances took a hit in Septem­ber when it was re­vealed — through doc­u­ments leaked by former NSA con­tract­or Ed­ward Snowden — that keep­ing tabs on the se­cur­ity of Pakistan’s nuc­le­ar, chem­ic­al and bio­lo­gic­al fa­cil­it­ies was con­sum­ing a grow­ing share of U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies’ black budget.

An ana­lys­is of the doc­u­ments leaked by Snowden to the Wash­ing­ton Post shows the U.S. gov­ern­ment is con­cerned about the lack of in­form­a­tion it has on how ex­actly nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al is spread out around Pakistan’s fa­cil­it­ies.

The con­cerns of the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­munity were not in evid­ence in the pub­lic state­ment re­leased on Wed­nes­day. Rather, Obama noted his ap­pre­ci­ation with “Pakistan’s con­struct­ive en­gage­ment with the Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Sum­mit Pro­cess and its co­oper­a­tion with the In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency and oth­er in­ter­na­tion­al for­ums” and ac­know­ledged “Pakistan’s ef­forts to im­prove its stra­tegic trade con­trols.”

The state­ment did not touch on con­cerns by the U.S. gov­ern­ment that Pakistan’s re­cent fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing com­pact lower-yield nuc­le­ar weapons might make it easi­er for ex­trem­ists groups to steal off with an en­tire war­head, the New York Times re­por­ted.

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