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Big risk of Pakistan slipping nuclear warheads to terrorists after the Taliban takeover – John Bolton

Former National Security Adviser of the United States, John Bolton says that the risk of Pakistan becoming more radicalized and perhaps even taken over by people who think like the Afghan Taliban is now dramatically increased

Donald Trump's former National Security Adviser John Bolton has called for imposing sanctions against a 'two-faced Pakistan' for supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and suggested that the Biden administration should instead "accelerate" its tilt towards India.

After writing a hard-hitting opinion piece for the Washington Post earlier this week – where he expressed concerns that the Taliban can now "return the sanctuary favour to Pakistani Taliban" after taking Kabul – Bolton, in a podcast interview with the same news organisation yesterday, said that the time has come now for Washington to take a harder line on Islamabad.

"Many profound ramifications of America's exodus from Afghanistan are competing for attention. Among the top challenges, Pakistan's future stands out," Bolton, who was also a former Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security in George W. Bush's first term, wrote in the Washington Post.

"For decades, Islamabad has recklessly pursued nuclear weapons and aided Islamist terrorism — threats that US policymakers have consistently underestimated or mishandled. With Kabul’s fall, the time for neglect or equivocation is over. The Taliban’s takeover next door immediately poses the sharply higher risk that Pakistani extremists will increase their already sizable influence in Islamabad, threatening at some point to seize full control," he added. 

With the Taliban taking control in Afghanistan, Bolton argued that the risk in Pakistan of a "radical regime" coming to power was very much real and so is the stockpile of nuclear weapons landing in wrong hands. 

"Such weapons in the hands of an extremist Pakistan would dramatically imperil India, raising tensions in the region to unprecedented levels. The prospect of Pakistan slipping warheads to terrorists to detonate anywhere in the world would make a new 9/11 incomparably more deadly," he added.

Bolton wrote that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) "has long been a hotbed of radicalism" which has now "spread throughout the military, to higher and higher ranks."

In Washington Post's 'Please Go On' podcast interview on Friday, Bolton reiterated that the risk of Pakistan becoming more radicalized "and perhaps even taken over by people who think like the Afghan Taliban" is now dramatically increased.

"We should make it clear to civilian leaders that Pakistan will pay a very dear price if they don't cut off aid to the Taliban," he said in the podcast interview, suggesting further that Washington should also ditch Pakistan from the "major non-NATO allies" list, impose sanctions, and accelerate its "tilt toward India."

Post 9/11, Bolton had visited Pakistan with Colin Powell, then the US Secretary of State. In the podcast, Bolton revealed that his job on the trip was to know more about the Pakistani nukes but all he got was smiles from everyone.

"We’ve got to absolutely focus on knowing everything we can about not just the warheads, but the delivery systems as well, and whether we get a radical regime in power in Pakistan or the current regime or one like it, if we see those weapons start to move, we’ve got to make sure they don’t go very far,” he said.

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