The good news is we know exactly where they are and who controls them.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — U.S. military intelligence officials are urgently assessing how secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would be in the event President Gen. Pervez Musharraf were replaced as the nation’s leader, CNN has learned.
Analysts wonder how secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would be if President Pervez Musharraf were replaced.
Three U.S. sources have independently confirmed details of the intelligence review to CNN but would not allow their names to be used because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The sources include military officers and intelligence community analysts.
The assessment is part of a broader review of the military and security situation in Pakistan.
Officials say that Pakistan and its nuclear weapons are always a high intelligence priority for the United States.
The United States has full knowledge about the location of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, according to the U.S. assessment.
But the key questions, officials say, are what would happen and who would control the weapons in the hours after any change in government in case Musharraf were killed or overthrown.
Musharraf controls the loyalty of the commanders and senior officials in charge of the nuclear program, but those loyalties could shift at any point, officials say.
The United States is not certain who might start controlling nuclear launch codes and weapons if that shift in power were to happen.
There is also a growing understanding according to the U.S. analysis that Musharraf’s control over the military remains limited to certain top commanders and units, raising worries about whether he can maintain control over the long term.
The U.S. officials also say one of the key problems for the U.S. military is what restrictions on U.S.-Pakistani military cooperation could be imposed if Musharraf were to impose heavy security restrictions in his country.