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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pakistan's Nukes

LOS ANGELES, May 19: CIA Director Leon Panetta has said the United States does not know the location of all of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons but is confident they are secure.

Mr Panetta spoke days after the top US military officer told Congress there was evidence Pakistan was adding to its nuclear weapons systems and warheads. Pakistan, however, denies this.

The CIA director was asked about Pakistan’s nuclear programme at a forum organised by the Pacific Council on International Policy on Monday.

“We don’t have, frankly, the intelligence to know where they all are located,” Mr Panetta said, adding “the US is confident the Pakistani government has a “pretty secure approach to try to protect these weapons”.

That security was something the US was watching, he said. “The last thing we want is to have the Taliban have access to nuclear weapons in Pakistan.”

At a recent congressional hearing, Adm Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked whether there was evidence that Pakistan was adding to its nuclear arsenal. He replied: “Yes.”

Mr Mullen said in Washington on Monday that the US had focussed some aid in recent years on improving the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and the country had used it for that purpose.

Meanwhile, the CIA director defended the use of unmanned aircraft to target Al Qaeda militants and said President Barack Obama’s policies had severely disrupted the network’s leadership.He said counter-terrorism and defeating Al Qaeda remained the agency’s top priority. “Al Qaeda remains the most serious security threat that we face ... to US interests and our allies overseas.”

Mr Panetta said Obama’s stated aim to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” Al Qaeda had already resulted in “serious pressure” being brought to bear on Al Qaeda’s leaders.

“There is ample evidence that the strategy set by the president and his national security team is in fact working,” Mr Panetta said.“We do not expect to let up on that strategy. I am convinced that our efforts in that part of the world are seriously disrupting every operation that Al Qaeda is trying to conduct and is interfering with their ability to establish plans to come to this country and we will continue that effort.”

Responding to a question, Mr Panetta said unmanned drone strikes -– whose use has caused tension with Pakistan -– had been “very effective” in targeting Al Qaeda’s leadership. “I think it does suffice to say that these operations have been very effective,” Mr Panetta said.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

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