Combating Terrorism:

The United States Lacks Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas

GAO-08-622: Published: Apr 17, 2008. Publicly Released: Apr 17, 2008.

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Since 2002, destroying the terrorist threat and closing the terrorist safe haven have been key national security goals. The United States has provided Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terror, more than $10.5 billion for military, economic, and development activities. Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which border Afghanistan, are vast unpoliced regions attractive to extremists and terrorists seeking a safe haven. GAO was asked to assess (1) the progress in meeting these national security goals for Pakistan's FATA, and (2) the status of U.S. efforts to develop a comprehensive plan for the FATA. To address these objectives, GAO compared national security goals against assessments conducted by U.S. agencies and reviewed available plans.

The United States has not met its national security goals to destroy terrorist threats and close the safe haven in Pakistan's FATA. Since 2002, the United States relied principally on the Pakistan military to address U.S. national security goals. Of the approximately $5.8 billion the United States provided for efforts in the FATA and border region from 2002 through 2007, about 96 percent reimbursed Pakistan for military operations there. According to the Department of State, Pakistan deployed 120,000 military and paramilitary forces in the FATA and helped kill and capture hundreds of suspected al Qaeda operatives; these efforts cost the lives of approximately 1,400 members of Pakistan's security forces. However, GAO found broad agreement, as documented in the National Intelligence Estimate, State, and embassy documents, as well as Defense officials in Pakistan, that al Qaeda had regenerated its ability to attack the United States and had succeeded in establishing a safe haven in Pakistan's FATA. No comprehensive plan for meeting U.S. national security goals in the FATA has been developed, as stipulated by the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (2003), called for by an independent commission (2004), and mandated by congressional legislation (2007). Furthermore, Congress created the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) in 2004 specifically to develop comprehensive plans to combat terrorism. However, neither the National Security Council (NSC), NCTC, nor other executive branch departments have developed a comprehensive plan that includes all elements of national power--diplomatic, military, intelligence, development assistance, economic, and law enforcement support--called for by the various national security strategies and Congress. As a result, since 2002, the U.S. embassy in Pakistan has had no Washington-supported, comprehensive plan to combat terrorism and close the terrorist safe haven in the FATA. In 2006, the embassy, in conjunction with Defense, State, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and in cooperation with the government of Pakistan, began an effort to focus more attention on other key elements of national power, such as development assistance and public diplomacy, to address U.S. goals in the FATA. However, this does not yet constitute a comprehensive plan.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The National Security Advisor and the Director of the NCTC should, in consultation with the Secretaries of Defense and State, and the Administrator of USAID, the intelligence community, and other executive departments as deemed appropriate, implement the congressional mandate to develop a comprehensive plan using all elements of national power to combat the terrorist threat and close their safe haven in Pakistan's FATA region. The comprehensive plan should also include key components called for in the Intelligence Reform Act, the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, and components that we have previously reported as being needed to improve the effectiveness of plans involving multidepartmental efforts to combat terrorism. The plan should (1) place someone directly in charge of this multidepartment effort to improve accountability; (2) articulate a clear strategy to implement the national security goal to destroy terrorists and close the safe haven in the FATA; (3) clarify roles and responsibilities of each department for implementing the goal; (4) provide guidance on setting funding priorities and providing resources to meet these national security goals; and (5) require a monitoring system and provide periodic reports to Congress on the progress and impediments to meeting national security goals in Pakistan.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: National Security Council

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This report brought renewed Congressional attention to the issue of Pakistan oversight. For example, in May 2008, the Acting Comptroller General testified in front of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs on the lack of a comprehensive plan for U.S. efforts in Pakistan. Later, Congress passed the 2009 Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, which authorized appropriations for FY 2010-2014 to promote an enhanced strategic partnership with Pakistan. This Act specifically cites GAO-08-622 in its findings. The Act states a Sense of Congress that paraphrases our recommendation, stating that "the achievement of U.S. national security goals to eliminate terrorism threats and close safe havens in Pakistan requires the development of a comprehensive plan that utilizes all elements of national power ... " Based on this Sense of Congress, the Act then directs the President to develop a Comprehensive Regional Stabilization Strategy. The Act requires further oversight by U.S. agencies, such as a Pakistan Assistance Strategy Report to the Congress, as well as semi-annual monitoring reports on its implementation. The Act also contains specific oversight mandates for GAO in Pakistan, including an independent review of the Pakistan Assistance Strategy Report. In July 2009, the NSC distributed a classified Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) that GAO believes addresses our recommendation. For more information, contact Charles Johnson, Director, International Affairs and Trade, at 202-512-7331.

    Recommendation: The National Security Advisor and the Director of the NCTC should, in consultation with the Secretaries of Defense and State, and the Administrator of USAID, the intelligence community, and other executive departments as deemed appropriate, implement the congressional mandate to develop a comprehensive plan using all elements of national power to combat the terrorist threat and close their safe haven in Pakistan's FATA region. The comprehensive plan should also include key components called for in the Intelligence Reform Act, the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, and components that we have previously reported as being needed to improve the effectiveness of plans involving multidepartmental efforts to combat terrorism. The plan should (1) place someone directly in charge of this multidepartment effort to improve accountability; (2) articulate a clear strategy to implement the national security goal to destroy terrorists and close the safe haven in the FATA; (3) clarify roles and responsibilities of each department for implementing the goal; (4) provide guidance on setting funding priorities and providing resources to meet these national security goals; and (5) require a monitoring system and provide periodic reports to Congress on the progress and impediments to meeting national security goals in Pakistan.

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence: National Counterterrorism Center

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This report brought renewed Congressional attention to the issue of Pakistan oversight. For example, in May 2008, the Acting Comptroller General testified in front of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs on the lack of a comprehensive plan for U.S. efforts in Pakistan. Later, Congress passed the 2009 Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, which authorized appropriations for FY 2010-2014 to promote an enhanced strategic partnership with Pakistan. This Act specifically cites GAO-08-622 in its findings. The Act states a Sense of Congress that paraphrases our recommendation, stating that "the achievement of U.S. national security goals to eliminate terrorism threats and close safe havens in Pakistan requires the development of a comprehensive plan that utilizes all elements of national power ... " Based on this Sense of Congress, the Act then directs the President to develop a Comprehensive Regional Stabilization Strategy. The Act requires further oversight by U.S. agencies, such as a Pakistan Assistance Strategy Report to the Congress, as well as semi-annual monitoring reports on its implementation. The Act also contains specific oversight mandates for GAO in Pakistan, including an independent review of the Pakistan Assistance Strategy Report. In July 2009, the NSC distributed a classified Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) that GAO believes addresses our recommendation. For more information, contact Charles Johnson, Director, International Affairs and Trade, at 202-512-7331.

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