The head of Nato said on Tuesday he was confident Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were safe, but admitted it was a matter of concern, the day after the worst assault on Pakistan Navy’s airbase, PNS Mehran, in Karachi.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen was in Afghanistan on a one-day visit and met President Hamid Karzai to discuss the transition of security from Nato -led troops to Afghan security forces, which is due to begin in July.
Rasmussen was asked if NATO was concerned about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons after it took Pakistani forces 17 hours to reclaim control of the naval airbase from the attackers and following the death of Osama bin Laden.
“I feel confident that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is safe and well protected,” said Rasmussen. “But of course it is a matter of concern and we follow the situation closely.”
About the deadly Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, Rasmussen said that Nato would protect its troops and Afghans from militants based across the border in Pakistan, reiterating pledges by the United States to target insurgents there who have escalated attacks since Bin Laden’s death.
The Western nations blame the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network of Taliban militants for fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan – a charge denied by Islamabad.
“It is well known that there is cross-border activity and it… (is) a problem and a security challenge,” Rasmussen told reporters. “We will take all necessary measures to protect the Afghan people and our own troops,” he said of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).
Rasmussen’s words echoed comments by Obama and US Senator John Kerry, a Democrat close to his administration, who have both said the United States would consider all options in hunting out senior militants in Pakistan after killing al Qaeda leader bin Laden in a secret raid on May 2.
President Karzai, on his part, called on Pakistan for help “to cooperate with us seriously and by all means, in order to eliminate terrorism and its training bases”.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2011.