Terrorist factions in Pakistan with growing firepower and connections inside the nation’s military and intelligence communities have increased their capability to capture a nuclear weapon, according to a new report by the Federation of American Scientists.
The FAS report says Pakistan militants now pose a greater threat to nuclear installations because of their “unique combination of ideology, strategic objectives, organizational structure [and] relations with other groups (including elements of the Pakistani state).”
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reviewed the report, which will be presented by FAS Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
The report, “Anatomizing Non-State Threats to Pakistan’s Nuclear Infrastructure: The Pakistani Neo-Taliban,” says emerging militants are highly motivated in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death and are “potentially capable” of capturing Pakistani nuclear assets. Pakistan is believed to have approximately 100 nuclear weapons.
The Pakistani Neo-Taliban refers to Taliban, Kashmiri jihadists and Punjabi Taliban militant groups that have carried out deadly attacks recently at Pakistani military bases.
Charles P. Blair, director of the Terrorism Analysis Project at FAS and the author of the report, told ICIJ that the worrisome ease of recent attacks by militants — and the covert assistance the groups reportedly get from elements in the Pakistan military — has changed the nuclear threat in Pakistan.
“If you had asked me 10 years ago if Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were likely to fall in the hands of the Islamic groups, I would say it was very unlikely,” Blair said. “But now it is getting more likely.”