Oh joy: Pakistan adding nukes to its stockpile

What they want to do with their nuclear program is their business - except if they use some of the billions of dollars in aid we are sending to beef up their strategic arsenal.

In the midst of an insurgency that threatens the survival of the government, one wonders about their priorities as well as their honesty in their dealings with us. Tom Shanker and David Sanger of the New York Times report the details:

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the assessment of the expanded arsenal in a one-word answer to a question on Thursday in the midst of lengthy Senate testimony. Sitting beside Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, he was asked whether he had seen evidence of an increase in the size of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.

"Yes," he said quickly, adding nothing, clearly cognizant of Pakistan's sensitivity to any discussion about the country's nuclear strategy or security.

Inside the Obama administration, some officials say, Pakistan's drive to spend heavily on new nuclear arms has been a source of growing concern, because the country is producing more nuclear material at a time when Washington is increasingly focused on trying to assure the security of an arsenal of 80 to 100 weapons so that they will never fall into the hands of Islamic insurgents.

The administration's effort is complicated by the fact that Pakistan is producing an unknown amount of new bomb-grade uranium and, once a series of new reactors is completed, bomb-grade plutonium for a new generation of weapons. President Obama has called for passage of a treaty that would stop all nations from producing more fissile material - the hardest part of making a nuclear weapon - but so far has said nothing in public about Pakistan's activities.

Obama can't publicly chastize the Pakistani government because that would make it an issue that India would feel compelled to respond. India, already nervous about overtures to Pakistan from the US government, will no doubt strenuously object to the size of our aid package to Pakistan and will want to see strict controls on where the money goes. This is something Bush failed to do and much of the $5 billion in military aid sent to former President Musharraf's regime was apparently spent not on counter insurgency but on beefing up the Pakistani military in the Kashmir region where a low level war with India has been raging for years over the fate of that province.

I feel pretty confident that we have a plan in place, and the personnel to carry it out, in case Pakistan's nukes are threatened. But that won't help the slow motion implosion of the Pakistani government we see right now as the Taliban continues to put pressure on the government in several key regions.

Analysts appear divided about the prospect of a Taliban takeover with some saying it is more possible today than at any time in recent memory and others dismissing the rebels as capable of carrying out terrorist attacks but not able to muster a force that could overcome the army. This may be true, but there is little doubt that the government headed by President Ali Zardari is wobbling and the crisis shows no signs of abating.