US to capture Pakistan's nuclear stockpile if extremists take power
American intelligence sources tell Fox News commando unit prepared to secure Pakistan's mobile arsenal of nuclear warheads if it seems country on verge of falling under Taliban or al-Qaeda's control. Pakistan calls report 'mere fiction'
WASHINGTON - The United States has a detailed plan for infiltrating Pakistan and securing its mobile arsenal of nuclear warheads if it appears the country is about to fall under the control of the Taliban, al-Qaeda or other Islamic extremists, American intelligence sources told Fox News.
According to the sources, the operation would be carried out by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the "super-secret" commando unit headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The unit, which was instrumental in the assassination of al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq, is the military's chief terrorists hunting squad and has units now operating in Afghanistan on Pakistan's western border. But a secondary mission is to secure foreign nuclear arsenals - a role for which JSOC operatives have trained in Nevada, the sources said.
Fox News said in its report, published Friday, that the mission "has taken on added importance in recent months, as Islamic extremists have taken territory close to the capital of Islamabad and could destabilize Pakistan's shaky democracy."
One of the sources told the news network, "We have plans to secure them (nuclear warheads) ourselves if things get out of hand; small units could seize them, disable them and then centralize them in a secure location."
According to Fox News, a secret Defense Intelligence Agency document first disclosed in 2004 said Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal of 35 weapons. The document said it plans to more than double the arsenal by 2020.
"What makes the Pakistan mission especially difficult is that the military has its missiles on Soviet-style mobile launchers and rail lines. US intelligence agencies, using satellite photos and communication intercepts, are constantly monitoring their whereabouts. Other warheads are kept in storage. US technical experts have visited Pakistan to advise the government on how to maintain and protect its arsenal," the report said.
Also, there are rogue elements inside Pakistan's military and intelligence service who could quickly side with the extremists and make JSOC's mission all the more difficult, Fox News said.
Pakistan rejected the report as "mere fiction."
"Pakistan's multi-tiered and robust command and control structure is operational and we are also fully capable of safeguarding our nuclear assets against any kind of threat," Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said.