GAO: Administration lacks plan to combat terrorists in Pakistan

In a scathing critique of the Bush administration's failure to destroy a resurgent al Qaeda, the Government Accountability Office said the terrorist group is training operatives at a safe haven in Pakistan's lawless tribal region and is in the final stages of preparing another attack inside the United States.

GAO said the administration never developed a plan to destroy the terrorist threat or to shut down the safe havens in Pakistan, despite recommendations by the president's own national security strategy, the findings of the 9/11 commission and legislative mandates from Congress. GAO stated clearly where the blame for this failure resides: "The president of the United States has primary responsibility to ensure that his national security strategy is carried out effectively."

According to the report, the Bush administration has relied on the Pakistani military to combat al Qaeda, but has not adequately monitored billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars sent to the Pakistani government for that purpose. The Pakistani military has had some "tactical successes," GAO noted, and since 2001 has helped kill or capture hundreds of suspected terrorists and al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Despite those successes, and $10.5 billion in U.S. aid, Pakistan's efforts for the most part have failed, GAO said, and officials from intelligence agencies and the Defense and State departments have concluded that al Qaeda continues to recruit and train terrorists and launch attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan from the tribal regions. Al Qaeda's central leadership is based in the tribal regions and is using the safe haven to "put the last element necessary to launch another attack against America into place, including the identification, training and positioning of Western operatives for an attack," the report said.

Pakistan's mountainous tribal region shares a 373-mile border with Afghanistan, and its 3.1 million inhabitants suffer from underemployment and extreme poverty. The area is different from the rest of Pakistan and is governed by a legal and administrative system that's a holdover from the British colonial period; the tribes have almost no political representation and few legal rights.

The watchdog agency said U.S. and Pakistani officials acknowledged that military operations alone will not restore security to the tribal regions. Recognizing the growing terrorist threat, and absent guidance from Washington, U.S. Embassy officials in Pakistan began in 2006 to cobble together their own efforts at combating militant groups involving a mixture of military, development and diplomatic measures.

The embassy plan would provide $2 billion over nine years for economic development and extend to Pakistan government control over the tribal regions. It also would include counterinsurgency training of Pakistani security forces. Administration support in implementing or funding that effort has not been forthcoming, GAO said.

The agency recommended that the White House put together a comprehensive plan using all elements of national power -- integrating Defense, State, the U.S. Agency for International Development and intelligence community resources -- to shut down the terrorist safe haven, and designate one person in charge of coordinating that effort.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.