Combating Terrorism:

Actions Needed to Enhance Implementation of Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership

GAO-08-860: Published: Jul 31, 2008. Publicly Released: Jul 31, 2008.

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In fiscal year 2005, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) was established to eliminate terrorist safe havens in northwest Africa by strengthening countries' counterterrorism capabilities and inhibiting the spread of extremist ideology. Funds obligated for TSCTP in fiscal years 2005 through 2007 and committed for fiscal year 2008 by the Department of State (State), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense (DOD) have amounted to about $353 million for activities in nine partner countries. In this report, GAO examines (1) the distribution of funds for TSCTP and the types of activities supported and (2) the program's implementation, including the extent to which it is guided by a comprehensive, integrated strategy. GAO has reported previously on the need for a strategy that includes priorities and milestones that can help agencies collaborate in combating terrorism. GAO analyzed TSCTP-related documents and conducted work in Mali, Morocco, and Mauritania.

In fiscal years 2005 through 2007, State, USAID, and DOD distributed about 74 percent of their obligations for TSCTP to Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger; about 3 percent to Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia; and about 8 percent to Nigeria and Senegal. The remaining 15 percent was distributed through regional assistance, such as military exercises in multiple partner countries. The agencies expected to distribute about half of total funds committed for TSCTP for fiscal year 2008 to Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger and the remainder among the other countries. State, USAID, and DOD have supported a wide range of diplomacy, development assistance, and military activities aimed at strengthening partner countries' counterterrorism capacity and inhibiting the spread of extremist ideology. For example, State--the lead agency for TSCTP--has hosted educational programs intended to marginalize violent extremists; USAID supported efforts to improve education and health; and DOD has provided counterterrorism training in marksmanship and border patrol to the militaries of partner countries. Several factors have hampered the key agencies' implementation of TSCTP activities, in some cases limiting their ability to collaborate in working to combat terrorism. First, the agencies lack a comprehensive, integrated strategy for their TSCTP activities, and the documents used in planning the activities do not prioritize proposed activities or identify milestones needed to measure progress or make improvements. Second, disagreements about whether State should have authority over DOD personnel temporarily assigned to conduct TSCTP activities in partner countries have led to DOD's suspending some activities, for example, in Niger. Third, fluctuation in State's and USAID's distribution of funds for TSCTP resulted in suspension of a peace-building program in Mali. Fourth, although the agencies measure activities' outputs, such as the number of foreign military personnel trained, they do not measure their activities' outcomes in combating terrorism--for instance, any decrease in extremism in the targeted countries.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: State, USAID, and DOD agreed with the recommendation. However, State did not develop a comprehensive strategy for the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) and, as of 2012, continues to use documents created in 2005 to guide the partnership. According to State officials, the documents created in 2005 to guide the TSCTP remain valid. State has taken a piecemeal approach to making adjustments to specific programs when needed; however, our report found that the 2005 documents used in planning TSCTP activities do not prioritize proposed activities or identify milestones needed to measure progress or make improvements.

    Recommendation: To enhance U.S. agencies' ability to collaborate in strengthening country and regional counterterrorism capabilities and inhibiting the spread of extremist ideology in northwest Africa, the Secretary of State should work through the Director of Foreign Assistance, who serves concurrently as USAID Administrator, to develop a comprehensive strategy for the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership in conjunction with the Secretaries of Defense and the Treasury, the U.S. Attorney General, and the heads of any other partner agencies. The strategy should include clear goals, objectives, and milestones, including output and outcome indicators, and identify resources needed to achieve the program's goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: State agreed with the recommendation. However, as of August 2012, State had not developed or issued joint guidance with DOD with regard to DOD personnel temporarily assigned to conduct Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Program (TSCTP) activities in partner countries, as recommended by GAO. According to State officials, the existing guidance for TSCTP is sufficient and further joint guidance is not needed and has not been developed.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of State and Defense should develop and issue joint guidance with regard to DOD personnel temporarily assigned to conduct TSCTP activities in the partner countries.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with the recommendation. However, as of August 2012, DOD had not developed or issued joint guidance with State with regard to DOD personnel temporarily assigned to conduct Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Program (TSCTP) activities in partner countries, as recommended by GAO. According to DOD officials, DOD believes sufficient guidance exists in governing statutes and directives regarding deployed DOD personnel, including those participating in TSCTP.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of State and Defense should develop and issue joint guidance with regard to DOD personnel temporarily assigned to conduct TSCTP activities in the partner countries.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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