According to a GAO report released April 17, 2008, since 2002 the US embassy has had no comprehensive plan to address the issue of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) which lie across Afghanistan’s eastern border. To date, efforts have been uncoordinated and disorganized. From 2002 through 2007, the US has given some $10.5 billion dollars in assistance. $5.56 billion has gone to reimburse Pakistani forces operating in the Tribal Areas. Much of this has been pilfered or diverted. Despite this largesse, Pakistani forces in the FATA are often poorly trained and poorly armed, especially in comparison to the tribal forces they face. In addition, $1.98 billion has gone to developmental assistance. Another $1.6 billion has been spent to support basic government operations. $1.22 billion has been used to purchase military equipment, $9 million for international military training, and $202 million to improve border security.
The lack of a comprehensive plan is despite calls for such in Bush’s 2003 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, the 2004 9/11 Commission Report, the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act which created the National Counter Terrorism Center precisely to come up with such plans, and the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 which, with the Democratic takeover of the Congress, finally got around to enacting the 9/11 Commission recommendations. As the GAO report notes, there have been consequences for this lack of attention.
However, we found broad agreement, as documented in the unclassified 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), State and embassy documents, as well as among Defense, State, and other officials, including those operating 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.
In particular the 2007 NIE “Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland” concluded that al Qaeda had successfully replaced its senior operational planners and had “regenerated the core operational capabilities needed to conduct attacks against the United States.” It described its safe havens in the FATA as “the most serious terrorist threat to the United States.” The FATA situation is just part of the larger problem created by Bush’s leaving before the job was done in Afghanistan for his disastrously misguided war with Iraq.