U.S. Lacks a Comprehensive Approach to Pakistan’s FATA

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 9 months ago

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released an important report entitled 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.  They found that:

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.

Much of the review was focused on the lack of a comprehensive approach, and in particular, the lack of application of so-called “soft power.”  The GAO recommended that:

… the National Security Advisor and the Director of the NCTC, in consultation with the Secretaries of Defense and State and others, implement the congressional mandate to develop a comprehensive plan to combat the terrorist threat and close the safe haven in the FATA. Defense and USAID concurred with the recommendation; State asserted that a comprehensive strategy exists, while the Office of the Director of National Intelligence stated that plans to combat terrorism exist.

The Rumsfeld plan for Afghanistan involved special forces, satellite uplinks to guide JDAMs, money, and partnership with the Northern Alliance (along with nefarious tribal warlords) – in general, a lack of adequate force projection.  The end result was that the Taliban and al Qaeda were pushed into neighboring Pakistan, and the consequences of this approach have yet to be fully realized.

The fact that the Taliban have made it clear that rejection of the U.S.-led war on terror is a precondition to successful talks causes skepticism concerning the value of soft power in Pakistan (if soft power is seen as negotiations and State Department involvement).  However, the absence of the State Department has been problematic in the past, and we have noted that the sole remaining democracy program for Iran was jettisoned by State, leaving nothing except student exchange programs.

If the war(s) are seen as a war, then State Department pressure on Iran would have helped Afghanistan long ago.  Regime change in Iran would have brought quicker stability to Iraq, thus freeing troops to be allocated to the campaign in Afghanistan.  Then the State Department could have engaged in the Afghanistan humanitarian situation which, by all accounts, is one of the worst on the globe.  Is it any wonder that “State asserted that a comprehensive strategy exists?”  How convenient.

As for the NCTC, they can’t possibly allocate the funds to grow the size of the Army and Marines, any more than they can tell the administration how to enact foreign policy or the congress how to vote.  Some of the blame must be laid at the feet of Congress, and unfortunately, in the report’s greatest failure, Congress gets off unscathed.

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You are currently reading "U.S. Lacks a Comprehensive Approach to Pakistan’s FATA", entry #1046 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Department of Defense,Pakistan,State Department and was published April 19th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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