Special Forces on Alert for Pak Nuke Crisis

In case you were wondering what would happen if the Pakistani nuclear arsenal were to be threatened by a takeover of extremists or appear to be compromised by chaos in that country, US Special Forces have been put on alert to deal with just such an eventuality:

US special forces snatch squads are on standby to seize or disable Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in the event of a collapse of government authority or the outbreak of civil war following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The troops, augmented by volunteer scientists from America's Nuclear Emergency Search Team organisation, are under orders to take control of an estimated 60 warheads dispersed around six to 10 high-security Pakistani military bases.

Military sources say contingency plans have been reviewed over the past three days to prevent any of Pakistan's atomic weapons falling into the hands of Islamic extremists if the administration of President Pervez Musharraf appears threatened by civil unrest.

Some of the special forces are already believed to be in neighbouring Afghanistan and on alert for the mission. It is also understood that satellite surveillance of Pakistan has been stepped up to keep track of the possible movement of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems.

Various components of the weapons - warhead, detonator, and delivery system - are kept separated for reasons of security but can be married up quickly in a crisis. The challenge is to penetrate the sites and either seize or neutralize the weapons.

It is thought that we already have teams in Afghanistan to respond immediately if the situation in next door Pakistan gets out of control.

While it's good to know we're prepared, the prospect that our Special Forces would be activated for such a mission is chilling to contemplate. Let's hope they stay in their barracks and don't have to be used.