Are the Taliban about to buy a North Korean nuclear weapon?

We reported recently on information coming out of Afghanistan suggesting the very real possibility that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were working on a plan to acquire a functioning Pakistani nuclear weapon. That information came from multiple news sources, and we were able via contacts to verify the reporting independently. That was bad enough, but there is now new reporting suggesting that a Taliban delegation may have traveled to North Korea for discussions about buying a nuclear weapon from that rogue nation.

According to reporting an eight-man Taliban delegation recently made a secret visit to North Korea to discuss cooperation on nuclear weapons technology. Allegedly, several Western intelligence agencies are aware of the contact and are attempting to acquire additional information. One of the individuals reported to have traveled to North Korea is Maulvi Abdul Rasheed Munib, the security chief of Kandahar and head of foreign relations for Afghan Taliban intelligence.

There is nothing fantastic or unbelievable about this reporting. North Korea relies upon illegal weapons sales worldwide to raise much-needed hard currency. The North Koreans make more than $100 billion a year from missile sales alone, and they will deal with anyone. At one point or another, they have sold weapons in violation of international sanctions to Egypt, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, and Libya among others. They are currently pumping munitions including ballistic missiles to Russia, and as we have reported, are rumored to have been given a top-level Russian ICBM capable of hitting the United States in return.

As part of this worldwide enterprise, the North Koreans operate a vast smuggling network. They employ “ghost ships.” They carry out black flights. They operate front companies and employ foreign middlemen. We are nowhere close to being able to monitor everything they are moving or where it is going.

There is nothing rudimentary or haphazard about North Korean smuggling operations. They are highly refined and carefully calibrated to escape detection. When oil is smuggled into North Korea for instance – in violation of sanctions – ships often meet at sea under the cover of darkness and move the oil from one vessel to another to throw intelligence and law enforcement agencies off the track. The North Koreans do not just sell weapons, however. They partner with other dangerous regimes and work with them over time to enhance their capabilities. They have been working with the Iranians since 1979, and a great deal of the progress the Iranians have made in expanding their missile capabilities has been due to North Korean assistance.

“Iran has developed a close working relationship with North Korea on many ballistic missile programs,” providing Iran “a qualitative increase in [ballistic missile] capabilities” and advancing Iran toward its “goal of self-sufficiency in the production of medium-range ballistic missiles.”

Congressional Research Service

There are no limits apparently on to whom the North Koreans will sell or with whom they will deal. The rogue nations of the planet are in fact the chief clientele of Pyongyang.

“North Korea’s history of exporting ballistic missile technology to several countries, including Iran and Syria, and its assistance during Syria’s construction of a nuclear reactor— destroyed in 2007—illustrate its willingness to proliferate dangerous technologies.”

Assessment of U.S. Intelligence Community 2018

The international community has long recognized that North Korea would continue to deal with its cash flow problems by expanding the scope of its sales of dangerous technologies. It has also been obvious to experts that the likely “growth market” for the North Koreans would be the Middle East.

“The most likely outgrowth of North Korea’s need for cash is an increase in other dangerous behavior. WMD technology represents one of North Korea’s few value-added assets.”

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Let’s be clear. If you think somebody is on top of all this, carefully monitoring it and preparing plans to prevent the Taliban and their allies from getting nuclear weapons, you are living in dreamland. Afghanistan is a terrorist superstate and a denied area in terms of intelligence collection. We have gone blind there, and the policy of this administration is to ignore the issue and hope the American people are too busy trying to figure out how to pay the rent and buy gas under “Bidenomics” to notice.

Every jihadist group worth its salt has set up shop in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban. Al-Qaeda is so tied into the Taliban that many of its senior officials are holding formal positions in the Taliban government. The Pakistani Taliban are waging war on Islamabad and the threat there is so grave the Pakistanis are begging Washington for help.

Against this backdrop the idea that the Taliban are asking the North Koreans to arm them is not only not bizarre it is perfectly reasonable. Are the Taliban about to buy a North Korean nuclear weapon? It is entirely possible.


Sam Faddis

Senior Fellow

Charles “Sam” Faddis is a veteran, retired CIA operations officer, Senior Partner with Artemis, LLC and published author. With degrees from The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Law School, he is a contributor to, Newsmax, and The Hill among others. He regularly appears on many networks and radio programs as a national security and counter-terrorism expert.  Sam is the author of “Beyond Repair: The Decline And Fall Of The CIA” and “Willful Neglect: The Dangerous Illusion Of Homeland Security.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Center for Security Policy column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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