GAO: Bush lacks strategy to wipe out bin Laden sanctuary
By Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers
* Posted on Thursday, April 17, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration doesn't have a comprehensive strategy for eliminating Osama bin Laden's sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal region and preventing the region from being used for launching terrorist attacks on the United States, the investigative arm of Congress said Thursday.
President Bush and his senior lieutenants frequently claim that eradicating the threat that bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network poses to United States and its allies is their top national-security priority.
But in a scathing report, the Government Accountability Office said there was no 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."
Al Qaida established its sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal region when bin Laden and his followers fled Afghanistan after the 2001 U.S.-led intervention.
"No comprehensive strategy for meeting U.S. national-security goals" in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas has been developed even though the administration's counter-terrorism policy, congressional legislation and the mission of the National Counter-Terrorism Center mandate such an approach, the report says.
It says that the Bush administration has relied primarily on the Pakistani military to address the threat to American national security.
About 96 percent of some $5.8 billion that the United States provided to Pakistan from 2002 to 2007 to address the problem in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and adjoining districts has gone to reimbursing the Pakistani military for the costs of its operations, according to the report.
But Pakistan, which deployed 120,000 troops and paramilitary forces in the rugged Massachusetts-size region, has failed to eliminate al Qaida and allied militants based there even though it's killed and captured hundreds of extremists while losing about 1,400 of its own forces.
"It is appalling that there is still no comprehensive, interagency strategy concerning this critical region, and this lack of foresight is harming U.S. national security," said Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, which requested the report.
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The GAO report: http://hcfa.house.gov/110/GAO041708.pdf