The Worst Pakistan Nightmare for Obama

David E. Sanger in the New York Times Magazine:

ScreenHunter_10 Jan. 11 13.27 To get to the headquarters of the Strategic Plans Division, the branch of the Pakistani government charged with keeping the country’s growing arsenal of nuclear weapons away from insurgents trying to overrun the country, you must drive down a rutted, debris-strewn road at the edge of the Islamabad airport, dodging stray dogs and piles of uncollected garbage. Just past a small traffic circle, a tan stone gateway is manned by a lone, bored-looking guard loosely holding a rusting rifle. The gateway marks the entry to Chaklala Garrison, an old British cantonment from the days when officers of the Raj escaped the heat of Delhi for the cooler hills on the approaches to Afghanistan. Pass under the archway, and the poverty and clamor of modern Pakistan disappear.

Chaklala is a comfortable enclave for the country’s military and intelligence services. Inside the gates, officers in the army and the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, known as the ISI, live in trim houses with well-tended lawns. Business is conducted in long, low office buildings, with a bevy of well-pressed adjutants buzzing around. Deep inside the garrison lies the small compound for Strategic Plans, where Khalid Kidwai keeps the country’s nuclear keys. Now 58, Kidwai is a compact man who hides his arch sense of humor beneath a veil of caution, as if he were previewing each sentence to decide if it revealed too much. In the chaos of Pakistan, where the military, the intelligence services and an unstable collection of civilian leaders uneasily share power, he oversees a security structure intended to protect Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal from outsiders — Islamic militants, Qaeda scientists, Indian saboteurs and those American commando teams that Pakistanis imagine, with good reason, are waiting just over the horizon in Afghanistan, ready to seize their nuclear treasure if a national meltdown seems imminent.

More here.