During the Cold War the United States and the Soviet Union created nuclear weapons that were dubbed tactical nuclear weapons. Although not as powerful as, say, an ICBM they can easily cripple or destroy a city. Their original purpose was supposed to be attached to an artillery vehicle, a strategic bomber, or a missile. Thousands were created during the Cold War, and after the collapse of the USSR, the production of most was stopped.
In our timeline, President George Bush Sr. and Congress gave the Russian Federation millions of dollars in aid to help reduce the chance of a nuclear weapon to fall into the wrong hands. With that money, the Russian military was able to protect the missiles, and terrorists were not able to get their hands on one.
However, since this is the alternative history wikia, and things are supposed to change, in my timeline George Bush Sr. never gave the Russians the needed funds, and not all of the Soviet nuclear arsenal was accounted for, and instead al Qaeda were able to get a hold on these, and ask Saddam Hussein for help in attacking the "Great Satan". Angry over the Gulf War he gave the terrorist group Soviet-made SCUD missiles to attach the warheads to. Instead of 9/11, Al Qaeda, using cargo boats, were able to fire these weapons on five American cities: Washington D.C, New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Miami on March 5, 2002. The resulting explosions killed 10.2 million Americans and the radiation killed another five million people. This led to collapse of social order, the United States divided and weak, and the world struggling to obtain balance.
On December 25th 1991, the Soviet Union was officially declared an extinct nation and all government powers went to the states that were formed. President George Bush Sr. was then briefed on how this will affect the U.S foreign policy and was told the economic aid to this part of the world will help stabilize it not only economically but also security. George Bush debated the issue and then decided not too due to how voters might take of this in the elections. Around this time CIA agents wrote a report on how Russians nuclear weapons can be captured and be sold in the black market. The report never reached George Bush although many speculate the Director of Central Intelligence may have hid it from the president but has not been proven due to the destruction of records after "Judgment Day".
Russian forces invade Chechnya and many of their resources go to calming this area. Although they have set up many Special Operation forces that go and secure Soviet nukes they are underfunded. Also the collapse of the Russian economy causes the military to cut many essential personnel. In Novosibirsk, a providence in Russia near the border of Kazakhstan, a temporary base is set up to control the influx of nuclear weapons coming from Central Asia. The base is led by Lt. Imran Harkov and is a practicing Muslim. Most of his men are Muslim from Central Russia and sympathetic with the Chechens. Harkov is believed to have come into contact with an Iraqi military servicemen and supporter of al Qaeda in August. In December 5th, seven Russian tactical nuclear weapons left the base in four Ural-5323 transports. Although the destination was unknown they are believed to have left and gone to Kazakhstan. From there, however, there has been much speculation on how they arrived in a secret Iraqi Base in Kurdistan, Iraq. The FSB and Vympel realized they never got the weapons and arrested Harkov.