Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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A Deeply Disturbing Report on the Lack of Strategic Thinking
The General Accounting Office recently released a devastating reporton the lack of a coherent strategy governing the U.S. approach to dealing with the terrorist threat from Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATAs).

This is true FIVE YEARS after the development of such a strategy was "stipulated by the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (2003), called for by an independent commission (2004), and mandated by congressional legislation (2007)."

Why this is not major news is beyond me. The report (with which the Defense Department and USAID concurred, and which State and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not bother to comment on, and thus did not dispute) is a huge red flag about the core of the counterterrorism strategy that is being implemented, or not implemented.

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.

This strikes me as a colossal failure on many levels. There is, in essence, no strategy for taking on the enemy's command and control center, its operational center and the home to its most wanted leadership.

Were we dealing with a little-known group whose ability to carry out strategic threats against us in debate, that might be understandable. But we are talking the traditional, old guard leadership of al Qaeda which has carried out numerous, deadly attacks.

But, as the report makes clear, there has been little imperative to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with our primary enemy despite the fact that it is known they are operating from the very areas we have no policy for.

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.

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.

But let's review. The FATA is home to about 3.1 million people. The United States has spent $5.8 billion there in five years ($1.16 billion a year, or $516 per person per year in a region where the average family income is $250 a year), and yet there is no comprehensive strategy for how or where the money is spent.

We know that $5.56 billion in taxpayer money went to reimburse the Pakistani military, which in turn appears to have allowed al Qaeda to "regenerate its ability to attack the United States" while establishing a safe haven in the region. Sounds like money well spent, indeed.

Is this because all the attention of every policy maker and planner is focused on Iraq? There is no one left who can get the attention of senior policy makers to bring focus to this effort?

I know there are people across the government worried about this, but they seem to be unable to get the attention of folks further up the food chain who can actually make policy decisions.

Can we really go five years without developing the program that would likely have the most impact on our security? This really does seem to me to almost criminal negligence at very senior levels of the intelligence and policy communities.
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