U.S. warns of doomsday scenario
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon estimates 17 million nuclear casualties in South Asia should India and Pakistan embark on a nuclear strike against one another.
The figure, compiled by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, does not include long-term deaths from radiation sickness, starvation, or even victims of fires that could burn long after the initial blasts.
The agency's assessment assumes "100-percent delivery" of both sides nuclear weapons.
In such a scenario, it predicts between nine million and 12 million people would die. Another two million to five million would be injured.
The figure was released on Friday from a recently updated DIA estimate based on a worst-case scenario in which both sides expend all their nuclear weapons, and score direct hits.
Pentagon officials stress that the estimates cannot take into account all the variables that might be involved in a nuclear exchange, and that the actual casualty figures could be greater or smaller.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hinted on Thursday that he might share U.S. intelligence estimates about the devastating effect of a nuclear war with leaders in the region when he visits India and Pakistan next week.
"Certainly, I'd like to be as helpful as I can to both countries," he told a Pentagon briefing.
"We've done a lot of thinking about that here in this building and in the United States government, having had nuclear weapons for -- what? -- 55, 57, 58 years now.
"So we've given a lot of thought to their use and what the effects are -- what the immediate effects are, what the lingering effects are, and what the secondary effects can be with respect to other problems."
DIA estimates of how many nuclear warheads each side has remains classified, but one official said the estimate is in the "dozens" for both sides, with most warheads believed to be in the 10-20 kiloton range.
Other estimates vary, Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems lists Pakistan as probably having between 25 and 50 nuclear warheads available, while it estimates India with between 100 and 150 nuclear warheads.
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