Pakistan’s nuclear adventurism and domestic vulnerability are never far from the mind of the American leadership, going by comments from the two principle Presidential candidates that predate this week’s action.
After Republican nominee Donald Trump pledged in his platform to secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal because of the country’s chronic instability, it transpires that his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton is concerned about the specter of Pakistani nuclear suicide bombers. In comments at a fundraiser in Virginia reproduced in a conservative publication after a 50-minute audio was hacked from Democratic Party computers, Clinton is heard worrying about Pakistan “running full speed to develop tactical nukes in their continuing hostility with India.”
Clinton’s remarks came in response to a question about modernizing the US arsenal with nuclear-armed cruise missiles, (which she says she is against), but she goes beyond that to reflect on nuclear issues worldwide, zeroing in on the vulnerability of Pakistan’s weapons as a major threat. “We live in fear that they’re going to have a coup, that jihadists are going to take over the government, they’re going to get access to nuclear weapons, and you’ll have suicide nuclear bombers. So, this could not be a more threatening scenario,” she says.
Her remarks, coming on top of President Obama’s description of Pakistan as a ‘disastrously dysfunctional’ country that should not be considered an US ally, sets the stage for further isolation of Islamabad regardless of who wins the November election. While a Trump victory could result in a blanket ban on Pakistanis traveling to the US if he follows through his campaign promise to stop Muslims from countries that are soft on terrorism, Hillary Clinton has already served notice on Pakistan, warning, “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.”