GAO: No plan for securing Pakistani area
April 22, 2008
The United States does not have a comprehensive plan for securing Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas despite a growing terrorist presence along the Afghan border, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
The omission of a comprehensive plan for the area comes despite repeated requests for an overarching strategy dating back as far as 2003, when President Bush and the National Security Council called for a comprehensive plan. Congress mandated a similar plan the following year in the Intelligence Reform Act.
Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas is an unruly mountainous region of about 3 million people that is one of the country’s poorest areas and a frequent sanctuary for al-Qaida and other militant groups. Parts such as Waziristan have long been deemed hazardous for Pakistani forces, which have had 1,400 soldiers killed during operations in the tribal areas.
The State Department reported in October that Pakistan was making significant progress toward eliminating terrorist safe havens there. But the GAO report found broad agreement among government agencies that al-Qaida had succeeded in establishing safe havens and had regrown its ability to attack the United States.
American efforts in the area have focused almost exclusively on Pakistan’s military operations at the expense of civil strategies, such as development assistance and addressing political needs, the authors of the report concluded.
Officials originally turned to the Pakistani military just after 9/11 because they thought it was the organization most capable of quickly undertaking operations in the region. But this may have led them to rely too much on the military, the report states.
It notes that 96 percent of the $5.8 billion that the United States spent on efforts in the area between 2002 and 2007 went toward reimbursing the Pakistani military for its operations there. Just $40 million, or 1 percent of the total, went toward development assistance. The remaining 3 percent went toward a border security program.
This neglects the root of many of the problems that, in turn, fuel terrorism, the report found. Public development spending in the area is about one-third Pakistan’s national average. The area is governed by a colonial-era administrative and judicial system that denies residents many basic rights, including due process and access to national political parties.
The U.S. Embassy is already making some changes to past strategies. The embassy said in September that it plans to spend $188 million in the tribal areas, including $99 million on development assistance and $33 million on security.
Yet the report authors concluded that this did not yet constitute a comprehensive plan. The U.S. still needs a clearly articulated strategy, guidance on funding priorities and someone directly in charge of a multidepartment effort — followed by a monitoring system and periodic updates to Congress.
The full report can be found on the Web at www.gao.gov/new.items/d08622.pdf.