Report: Pakistan hindering efforts to curb Taliban IEDs

Instructors at the Combat Center's newest range teach Marines such skills as detecting hidden improvised explosive devices, like the wired up mortar round shown here. The new range is Combat Center Range 800, made for tenant units preparing for deployments to Afghanistan.


By TOM VANDEN BROOK | USA Today | Published: June 6, 2012

WASHINGTON - Pakistan is impeding U.S. attempts to curb the flow of bombmaking materials from Pakistan to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, a report by the Government Accountability Office obtained by USA Today shows.

The report, which has not been officially released, focused on State Department efforts to measure efforts aimed at fighting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Pakistan. But the report quotes U.S. officials accusing the Pakistani government of delaying visas for American officers working on the problem.

"U.S. agencies have encountered ongoing challenges to their efforts to assist Pakistan, such as delays in obtaining visas and in the delivery of equipment," the report says.

Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., has led an effort to limit fertilizer made in Pakistan from reaching Afghanistan, where it is turned into explosives.

"It's particularly outrageous," Casey said. "The Pakistanis need to be held accountable. We can't allow that to persist."

IEDs are the top killer of U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan, according the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization. JIEDDO estimates that 83 percent of IEDs used in attacks on U.S. troops are made with fertilizers produced in Pakistan. IED attacks have increased slightly over the 12 months ending April 30, the most recent data available. There were 16,165 IED incidents over that period, a 2 percent increase.

The GAO report found that the State Department needs to do a better job of tracking progress of all U.S. efforts to combat IEDs in Pakistan, including counter-IED training and public awareness campaigns. The State Department agreed and committed to finding better measurements, the report says.

Now Casey said he will direct the GAO to conduct a new study on the effect of denying visas to U.S. counter-IED officials.

"Frankly, as much as we've been at odds with Pakistan on a whole host of fronts, we do have some things in common," Casey said. "One of the things we unfortunately have in common is the impact of the IEDs. They have civilians that have been killed and their own soldiers. We've got plenty of soldiers that have been killed or maimed by them."

The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been tense. U.S. officials have accused Pakistan of allowing havens for insurgents to hide, equip themselves and rest on their side of the border with Afghanistan. Ties frayed further in November when U.S. forces accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the border. Pakistan blocked shipments of supplies to NATO troops after the incident and have not reopened the routes.

The denial of visas is a "huge problem" that extends beyond counter-IED officials to many Americans who could help Pakistan, including aid workers, said Rick Nelson, director of the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a non-partisan think tank.

Pakistan's leaders have bowed to demands from militants to shut out Americans and is losing control of the country, Nelson said.

"Pakistan is riding the tiger of militancy," he said. "It's backfired. The threat to Pakistan is now coming from those insurgent groups. Their military and police forces lack the ability to control them."

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