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Pakistan: 'The Ally From Hell' That Hides Its Nukes From The U.S.

On the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan, a U.S. soldier stood guard last month as a boy walked by in Nangarhar province.
Tauseef Mustafa
AFP/Getty Images
On the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan, a U.S. soldier stood guard last month as a boy walked by in Nangarhar province.

The headlines this morning on the websites of The Atlantic and National Journal certainly grab your attention:

-- "The Ally From Hell." (The Atlantic)

-- "The Pentagon's Secret Plans To Secure Pakistan's Nuclear Arsenal." (National Journal)

Written by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Marc Ambinder of National Journal, the pieces add fascinating details to the reports in recent years (by Lawrence Wright of The New Yorker and others) about what's been called "the double game" that Pakistan plays.

On Morning Edition today, Goldberg told host Steve Inskeep about:

-- The lengths Pakistan goes to not just to keep its nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, but to hide them from the U.S.

"Pakistani officials," Goldberg said, "are as concerned about an American attack on the Pakistani nuclear apparatus then they are about jihadists. This is a worry that was aggravated by the Abbottabad raid" by U.S. commandos, who killed Osama bin Laden in that Pakistani city last May.

This concern about the U.S., said Goldberg, has lead Pakistan to frequently move its nuclear weapons in an attempt to hide their locations. And when those weapons are moved, they're often transported in vans — and not in heavily armed convoys. "You literally have a situation in which ... fissile material" is being moved around "in basically, fairly insecure ways."

-- "Serious plans" that the U.S. military has drafted to go into Pakistan to get or disable its nuclear weapons if it looks like they might be about to fall into terrorists' hands. "You can imagine the chaos that would ensue," Goldberg said, because "what you're talking about here is not an Abbottabad-style raid or a series of raids. If you really wanted to neutralize the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, you'd be talking about an invasion of Pakistan."

Steve's conversation with Goldberg followed another report on Morning Edition — host Renee Montagne's interview of Seth Jones, author of In the Graveyard of Empires. They talked about the situation in Afghanistan, and as Jones pointed out, "every major [Afghan] insurgent group, from the Taliban to the Haqqani network, have their command and control structure on the Pakistan side of the border and in most cases with direct support from the Pakistan government, or at least its intelligence service."

There's one more story related to Pakistan to pass along. The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that "the Central Intelligence Agency has made a series of secret concessions in its drone campaign after military and diplomatic officials complained large strikes were damaging the fragile U.S. relationship with Pakistan."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.