Russell felt as if someone had punched him in the solar plexus.
“Sir, it’s hard to hold in my mind. You’re right, the Taliban or Al Qaeda will have no compunction about using a nuclear bomb against cities, much less against Afghan or American troops. How long has this been going on?”
“The Agency has an asset inside the facility where they’re holding the components that have been delivered. The insider says someone in Pakistan stole a nuke the country had originally bought from Russia. Their local scientists reverse-engineered the device to make their domestically produced weapons smaller and more effective. One of those who took the original bomb apart is now selling it in pieces, holding out the next delivery for increasing amounts of money. When the Taliban has all the modules, they’ll probably have to pay a Paki engineer even more for final assembly and testing.”
“General, thank you for allowing me access to this information, but how can I
“Vic. I want you to work out a plan to snatch the bomb parts and bring them out.” McCaskill watched Russell as he wrestled with the proposed task’s difficulty.
“Sir, I have no resources. I have no access to intelligence. I have one-and-a-half
legs. I haven’t been thinking in a covert operations mode for a long time.”
“Your mind is the one I want on this project. You think in ways most people can’t. We know where the pieces are, the exact building. We could blow hell out of it with a drone, or hit it with a smart bomb. What we don’t know—and our asset hasn’t been able to find out—is whether enriched uranium is already on site. The asset thinks some of the fissile material was delivered early as sort of a grand gesture to make the Taliban release big bucks. If we bombed the place and scattered nuclear debris into the winds, the U.S. would never hear the end of it. As a matter of fact, the President has explicitly refused to consider an air strike.”
Damn! The President knows about this. How long had McCaskill been on the job? It was hell not knowing what was really going on in the war.
“What about Delta or SEAL Team 6? Either group could do the job.”
“The solution you mention is making the Agency develop an institutional acid stomach. They think an assault on the facility might cause the guardians to become martyrs with a dirty conventional bomb and take a large population with them when they go to meet Allah and their 72 virgins. No, Vic, you need to figure out how to get one or two men inside and get the device out. I’ll provide you with special communications gear to talk to me directly. When you need something, call. Turn over most of what you’ve been doing to your assistants. Bring Flynn into the picture if you’d like. You’ll need someone to help sort through your ideas.”
The two officers sat in the chilled air of the sedan, allowing the significance of the problem to settle over them like a malign, but weightless blanket.
“I’ve got to go, Vic. I’ll send a satellite radio rig and codes to you tomorrow. The technician who brings it will set it up for you. Call me when you have it. Sleep well.”
The general’s grin could have been sculpted from ice.