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06 May 2009

The Taliban's Atomic Threat


from The Wall Street Journal by JOHN R. BOLTON

One scenario is that instability continues to grow, and that the radicals disrupt both Pakistan's weak democratic institutions and the military.

Often known as Pakistan's "steel skeleton" for holding the country together after successive corrupt or incompetent civilian governments, the military itself is now gravely threatened from within by rising pro-Taliban sentiment. In these circumstances -- especially if, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified recently, the nuclear arsenal has been dispersed around the country -- there is a tangible risk that several weapons could slip out of military control. Such weapons could then find their way to al Qaeda or other terrorists, with obvious global implications.

The second scenario is even more dangerous. Instability could cause the constitutional government to collapse entirely and the military to fragment. This could allow a well-organized, tightly disciplined group to seize control of the entire Pakistani government. While Taliban-like radicals might not have even a remote chance to prevail in free and fair elections, they could well take advantage of chaos to seize power. If that happened, a radical Islamicist regime in Pakistan would control a substantial nuclear weapons capacity.

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