WASHINGTON, DC-U.S. Following a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs Subcommittee responded to the threat posed if Pakistan’s nuclear warheads and fissile material fall into the hands of the Taliban or other extremists.
“Pakistan is so urgent to our national security not just because today it serves as the headquarters for Al Qaeda leadership still planning terrorist attacks upon the United States,” said Senator Casey. “It also matters because of the 60 to 100 nuclear warheads maintained by Pakistan. If Taliban militants make further gains, or the Pakistani government collapses, a nightmare scenario where Islamic extremists acquire nuclear weapons could become reality. Our nation faces no greater national security challenge.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will discuss Pakistan’s nuclear warheads and capabilities at an upcoming classified hearing.
After 9/11, the Bush Administration initiated a dialogue with Pakistan on bolstering nuclear security efforts. It provided assistance with electronic monitoring of the facilities housing nuclear warheads and material and also offered help with psychological screening of personnel with access to the material to ensure they did not harbor extremist tendencies. Altogether, the Bush Administration expended approximately $100 million on nuclear security efforts in Pakistan. Yet the U.S. government has never been able to gain the access required to determine how U.S. funds are being spent – essentially, we are acting on good faith that the Pakistanis are using the funds in a responsible and appropriate fashion.
Senator Casey has been outspoken on the need to combat nuclear terrorism. He has outlined a three-part strategy on nuclear terrorism to address what he has called the single greatest peril to our nation. First, we must elevate the penalties for individuals and businesses that facilitate smuggling of fissile material and related nuclear components. Second, we should work with the International Atomic Energy Agency to establish a global library of nuclear fissile material to track the origin of the material. Finally, we must be doing more in the overall effort to combat nuclear proliferation among states like Iran, North Korea and others who seek or acquire nuclear material.
Senator Casey is also the co-chair of the Senate Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Caucus.