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Al-Qaeda Readies in Pakistan, While America Waits

Picture this: A terrifying new report is delivered to the U.S. President. It states starkly that al-Qaeda is in the last stages of preparing to attack the United States. But the response is…nothing. The President takes no action, and the report goes basically unreported in the media.

We’ve heard this story before. But this is not the infamous August, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” This happened just over a week ago, when the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a scathing report about the mounting danger of a reconstituted al-Qaeda growing and plotting in the tribal sections of Pakistan. The President’s reaction now, as it was in 2001, was silence.

According to the report, “al-Qaeda’s central leadership, based in the border area of Pakistan, is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the United States…” In 2002, after the al-Qaeda-supported Taliban was forced from power in neighboring Afghanistan, al-Qaeda members and their Afghan extremist allies fled across the border into the mountains of northwest Pakistan, known as the “Federally Administered Tribal Areas” (FATA).

The FATA is desperately poor, undereducated and underdeveloped, with a per-capita income of less than seventy cents per day, half the Pakistani national average. It was in this region—where millions of Afghan refugees fled during the Afghan civil and anti-Soviet wars of the 1980s and 1990s—that the Taliban built the backbone of its army: recruiting, indoctrinating and training a generation of “holy warriors” in radical madrassas. The region’s literacy rate is 17%, leaving a massive educational void to be filled by extremist education. There are about 300 religious madrassas registered in the FATA and potentially hundreds more unregistered Islamic schools. Evidence indicates these schools foster public support for Islamist extremism and terrorism. The Taliban succeeded by taking young refugees who looked forward to no schooling, no jobs and no path in the world, and giving them a religious education, a position in an army and both a spiritual and social purpose.

al-Qaeda and the Taliban have built a new, safe home in the FATA from which they can train and prepare to launch more terrorist attacks across the world. This GAO report demonstrates clearly that they are succeeding in this endeavor, in part because the White House has failed to plan adequately, and act effectively, to defeat our primary enemy.

I suspect that U.S. domestic politics is the primary reason the White House has all but ignored this report, at least in public. Ironically, while the administration has failed to seriously confront this problem, the Republican Party has repeatedly won the presidency and lower elections by banking on its macho image and playing the tough guy, portraying their Democratic opponents as effeminate wimps. (Their campaign has already begun to use the same smear campaign on Barack Obama, pitting him against John McCain and his prisoner of war record.) This Republican machismo translates into a governance love affair with massive, explosive weapons systems like National Missile Defense. It means belittling most international policies designed to support development (economic, political and social) in the underdeveloped regions of the world where terrorism is most easily born. It means investing in large-scale military resources (useful to fight the Nazis or the Soviets) at the expense of “soft-power” tools proven more effective at defeating terrorist groups.

The vast majority of conservative, liberal and moderate national security experts—including General David Petraeus and other counterinsurgency gurus now gaining prominence in the U.S. military—recognize that we can only close these safe havens and defeat al-Qaeda through mostly non-military means. But as the GAO report states, that current U.S. policy directs literally 99% of all funding for Pakistan's FATA toward military and security efforts, and less than 1% for development. Defeating al-Qaeda will require something more than a 1% solution.

This macho image plays well into the President’s Iraq policy as he and his supporters brandish phrases such as, “Bring it on” to challenge insurgents, and label their Iraq policy critics as cowardly “surrender monkeys.” Again, while this is politically advantageous for their own constituencies at home, it has locked the President and his would-be-successor John McCain into a fixation on Iraq when the real threat to the U.S. is in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The GAO report warned unambiguously, “al-Qaeda is now using the Pakistani safe haven to put the last element necessary to launch another attack against America into place.” But the administration and Senator McCain stand to lose politically from acknowledging and confronting this threat. Doing so would be tantamount to admitting that they have endangered America’s security by continuing to invest the bulk of our armed forces and resources in Iraq, when the true danger resides elsewhere.

The President must do what General Petraeus has already done for Iraq, which is to insist on a comprehensive plan for defeating al-Qaeda that doesn’t limit itself only to military options. (The U.S. Senate did its best to pass a law earlier this year that would have required such a plan, but it was stymied by White House allies.) President Bush even said so himself in his 2003 National Security Strategy: we must have “comprehensive plans employing all elements of national power—diplomatic, military, intelligence, development assistance, economic and law enforcement support—to combat terrorism and close terrorist safe havens” such as al-Qaeda’s in Pakistan. But five years later and seven years after the prophetic 2001 briefing, President Bush still isn't following his own advice.

Jonathan Morgenstein is a Senior Policy Fellow for the National Security Program at Third Way, a progressive strategy center in Washington, DC.

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Comments (25)

mike:

Well, would this problem be there if we had spent 1 trillion dollars on the real war on terror, i.e. AQ.

But then, so called WOT is not about AQ, it has become War for Iraqi Oil. Also, interesting point to be noted is that these days Iran is more in the news than AQ. How easily, politicians make a fool of the people is apalling and unfortunately news media plainly follows them.

norman g :

GAO means government accountability office? That should tell you something right there. Have they held Bush accountable for starting a war against a nation that never so much as threw a stone at us?

I heard Bush state that a first-strike offense is in actuality defense. Many of you believe that. But if you were raised in truth, you know that's not true.

We once had a president named Eisenhower who had a theory about Dominos, and he compared Vietnam to a domino. It was called the Domino Theory. If Vietnam fell to Communism then the country next to it would do the same and so on and so on and soon the whole world would be Communist.

We all saw what happened when Vietnam was finally left alone. So much for the Fear-filled Domino Theory that got over 50,000 Americans killed along with 2 or 3 million Vietnamese trying to resolve their own civil war.

Now we have a New Boogey Man Under the Stairs. He’s called a Terrorist.
Our Nation is now beginning to reap the benefits of our new Fear-filled theory.

As our nation has done, it is now being done to us. Nearly 2,000,000 home foreclosures in the U.S. last year are somewhat equal to the 2,000,000 people driven or forced to flee their homes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As you sow, you shall reap. All of us as a nation 2 years ago lost the rights to our pursuit of happiness when the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo vs. New London, that rich developers can move you out of your home if they can pay higher taxes to your city, regardless of how long the house and property has been in your family. By the way 13 out of the last 15 Supreme Court Justices were appointed while Republicans were in power, in case you’re wondering.

I think you might be able to say that these rich developers now being able to move whole neighborhoods is somewhat equal to our self-righteous crusade which goes to another region of the world and tells people they are going have to shift around and live in a new way that we have decided is best for them.

As you do, it shall be done unto you.
We have turned many areas of Bagdad into rubble as well as other cities there. Hurricane Katrina moved in and overnight destroyed a major city of ours as well as devastating towns in 4 other states.
That’s somewhat equal to the damage our nation caused to be inflicted on the Arab regions. But I’m afraid more might be owed.

Believe me every bit will be paid back. I saw what happened in our country after the Vietnam war. Before the war, murder on our streets was a very rare thing. After Vietnam the statistics went rampant, off the charts. Roughly 50,000 people in the US die every 2 and one half years at the hands of our own citizens. It will take a while to cancel out the genocide debt for Vietnam.

No one sees, no one hears the great message of Wisdom taught through the Great Spiritual teachers that tried to warn us that there is a Higher Tribunal. We might evade it for a short time but sooner or later it calls us into the courtroom. This Higher Tribunal states “No debt goes unpaid”

But for those of you who believe in the Spiritual Dwarfs running this administration, you don’t believe anything of what I’m saying, so “You shall be ever looking, never seeing, Ever listening, never hearing.”

Wolves dressed like Sheep will tell you that enemy is in such and such a place, like now they have moved to Pakistan and you must surrender some more of your rights in order to be protected and by the way it will cost another few Tril.

You and your children will willingly be micro-chipped by the new state and national identification cards that the Wolves explain will protect you somehow. Your new passports starting last January already have these microchips and they are presently implementing the driver’s license and national ID card which you will be required to carry, lest you not be able to buy or sell anything in the land. They will track you wherever you go.

Some of you who have read this are probably thinking I’m some sort of religious type who doesn’t deal in reality. Sorry to disappoint you.

Let me see if you can deal with real reality. Let me give you something real to investigate on your own. Do you know what a Squib is used for in Demolition? They are explosive devices used to cut support beams when skyscrapers are brought down. They cut them at a certain specific angle. Would you like to see some in Action?

I’ll show you how real reality is. There is some original film footage gathered by a large and growing organization of architects and engineers. They call themselves Architects and Engineers for 911 truth. They have solid proof that the 911 investigation needs to be redone since the original investigation experts had too many purse strings attachments to the powers that be and they left out far far far too much in their report.

The Architects and Engineers for 911 truth are not trying to dispute that the building was hit by terrorists, What they are doing is undeniably proving that the buildings were brought down by demolition experts, something much more organized than anything al-Qaeda could have assembled.

The Dead Giveaway is that several movie cameras footage obtained from 911 show these Squibs going off 40 stories below the mass of concrete as the WTC buildings come tumbling down. Not going off just randomly either.

In other words they are being fired ahead of the falling mass in rapid synchronization, and these are the Blasts that some of you might remember hearing some firemen on Television talk about the day it happened.

I repeat the word, Blasts, Not air. I repeat Not Air being force out through the windows as the (purse-string-attached-investigation-firm) stated. You can see the black smoke and debris exploding outward 40 stories below the area of the fire above and moving down uniformily.

They got it on film, untouched, un-retouched and undeniable. AND They have more than just that. They got the goods. Big time.

How’s that for reality, nothing spiritual there. If you don’t believe me then check out these architects and engineers web site. You owe it to the people who died that day to at least take a look. Its called Architects and Engineers for 911 truth. The Web site address is ae911truth.org These people aren’t lightweights either. They know their stuff and erect these kind of buildings.

For you who yell conspiracy theorist in order to attempt to invalidate level headed thinking, you're better off keeping your head in the sand. Don't look at the web site, you probably won’t be able to get a good night’s sleep for a long time. Someone’s done something real bad. Worse than al- Qaeda.
Hold on before you march off to Pakistan, take a look in the back yard.

Tariq Shah:

Amrit is Indian and Kahoor Khan is Afghani (seems of the pro USSR origin) so their comments are naturally rabidly anti-Pakistan without substance.

Fact is Pakistan has done more to fight AQ than any nation, we have taken care of the Afghan garbage for the past 30 years fo rno fault of our own. We have suffered from their internal and Soviet involvements, we have recieved nothing but misery from Afghanistan, from heroin, to weapons, to millions of refugees overburdening our already poor nation to recently suffering alarming suicide bombings which never happened before.

So Dr Kahoor, even a dog licks his masters hands after recievinga few loaves of bread, you can at least stop lying about Pakistan 24/7 and see some bright side. I doubt you have access to any Swiss account belonging to any Pakistani general.

Thanks John White and Marks.... the $10 Billion that supposedly the US gave Pakistan as some sort of reward to fight AQ is factually incorrect, those are mostly payments to Pakistan for supporting the US troops in Afghanistan, whether due to fuel, food, and other logistical support, providing military or air bases, for overflights which disrupt domestic civilian air carriers, etc etc, those are payments for services provided, also including 80,000 troops on teh border with Afghanistan to block AQT forces from overwhelming Afghan and NATO forces.

Afghans have a habit of complaining and expect the world to take care of them constantly, when will they become men and take some responsibility themselves and stop playing in the hands of India.

Tariq Shah:

More rubbish, the report does not state any clear and accurate intelligence, just generalized info that Al Qaeda is planning, even a 10 year old knows yes AQ is planning an attack.

AQ is always planning attacks on the US.

Where is the specific intel on time, their location, number of people involved, methi\od of attack, area of attack...

AQ is everywhere, in every country pretty much, sure they are loosely situated between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they could as well be in france or the Uk or Dubai or India for that matter.

So what does WP expect Bush to do? Start bombing Waziristan from north to south or east to west?

or what?

This type of dumb assessment deserves only one response... silence.

M1A1 Tank LT:

Bush-Bashers abound! Keep ignoring the facts! Keep making up your own history! Pretty soon you'll figure out how to blame the cold war on Bush, and maybe even the Kennedy assassination.

The facts still remain that congress went right along with Bush when it came to the war in Iraq. As much as you try to re-write history, that cannot be denied. The "but-we-were-lied-to!" crowd has no problem listening to the media which picks and chooses which stories to print based on which candidates they like.

Delusional Bush? Your beloved news agencies have been reporting since last October that the economy is in recession, which simply wasn't true. We have yet to see a quarter of negative growth, and yet you’d never know that. Of course we are heading for recession now. When all you hear on the news for five straight months is the word "recession", what else could the outcome be? Our economy is almost entirely based on consumer confidence.

The Associated Press ran a story on March 11 entitled "Economists see U.S. avoiding recession". Not a word of it on the nightly news. Not a word of it on CNN. Unemployment down to 3.8 percent in February? Not a lick of that on news either.

You hear what you want to hear and you see what you want to see. Right on cue for the election.

Sam:

Amrit, are you indian? Our president had made all of us americans fools in front of whole world. Everyone know how Bush lied about Iraq and Al Quaida.

amrit :

pakistan should be given no credit for joining us in the WOT. they only joined because the bush admnstrton said that join us or get bombed. it also helps that musharaff gets billions every year fro pretending to hwlp fight terror. for years the US has ignored the fact that the pakistani ISI funds and trains terror to spread in Kashmir and on the Afghan border region. Musharraf has admitted to providing moral support to the " freedom fighters" in kashmir, aka terrorists. Bush is obviously unintelligent, but lets not waste time on that

remember at one point in 1988 - 1990 or so the US funded Afghan tribal people and muslims there to kik the soviets out of Afghanistan. some of this logistical support was extended to BIn laden- so the weapons the US provided decades ago are now being used agionst US troops in afghanistan - The bin laden family used to be connected to the bushes in a corporate manner- on a different note - The US had Osama cornered at TOra Bora, but he got out cuz the US trusted local leaders to back up their promises to seal secret roads, whcih they obviously didnt

Richard:

Why are most of you pooh poohing this? BushMart will not only go down in history as the worst president ever but he too will be remembered as the biggest appeaser since Neville Chamberlain.

You right wing cowards must surely know deep down that even the much maligned (and ACTUAL christian) Jimmy Carter would have shown us Bin Laden's head long before now and that a REAL ally in Pakistan would have handed it to him.

Bush was illegally placed in office in order to start a war his Daddy's friends would profit from. Oil scum, war munitions/systems profiteers and scamming Texas construction corporations have been fully in charge of this administrations.

You fools call we liberals/progressives limp wristed? Punks.

Sam:

If we want terror to be controlled we need to control pakistan, we all know that pakistan is the terror hub, Indians have been telling this to us since long, we just never heard them.

Afridi A. Alim:

A question to Jonathan Morgenstien.

This article is based on your own beliefs.Are you a Catholic or a Protestant? Or any other denomination?

Just curious!

Anonymous:

Conservatives, if the GAO report came out and said George Bush isnt a moron and Iraq isnt a quagmire, you would be all over the GAO report without even bothering to notice who wrote it. It just so happens that no Conservative leaders have enough credibility to challenge the credbility of the GAO, or they would.

Rowan Berkeley:

The claim that a region described a few sentences earlier as "desperately poor, undereducated and underdeveloped, with a per-capita income of less than seventy cents per day" contains a mystery master-terrorist who is "using the Pakistani safe haven to put the last element necessary to launch another attack against America into place" is no more plausible than any of the other claims the USA has used to attack defenseless starving third world populations almost all over the world. The real reason for this agitation is that, thanks to its incompetent and traitor-ridden "counter-proliferation policy," the USA has now lost all influence over the nuclear weapons policy of Pakistan, and so the USA is trying to concoct as suitably James Bond style pretext for invading Pakistan, bit by bit. The Pakistanis, incidentally, know this, and even say it, in their own press. One can only thank one's lucky stars that the dollar is collapsing at an ever-increasing rate.

js:

When did the GAO become an intelligence arm of the US government?

theantibush:

What I really like is that in this country terrorists can easily walk across our borders, obtain employment, and await further orders, even with no id!

Facts'n'Fiction:

Since Obama said he would bomb Pakistan, is anyone here opposed to such a stradegy by our current whimpy Bush administration. Considering that multiple squadrans of B-1's, B-52's, and Stealth Bombers could pulverize the region in a matter of hours, why not?

Al Qaida, Post Mortem!

Intrepid:

Piffle.

Logan Waters:

"You're either with us or with the terrorists"
-GW Bush, 2002

Time for B-52s over Pakistan, carpet bombing round the clock. Pakistan wouldn't like that? Oh well. Guess they should have taken care of the problem themselves.

Too bad our Fearless Neocon Leader doesn't have the sense to actually defend America, isn't it?

Next up? Iran. Guess we have to leave AQ alone so that their AV club can continue to recruit. Yeah, that makes sense...

SmarterthanU:

"this seems rather overtly political and thin factually."

The GAO is an entirely non-partisan arm of congress that conducts OBJECTIVE investigations, and releases OBJECTIVE reports based upon its findings.

Bush ignored over 50 direct warnings about al Qaeda prior to 9/11. No amount of spin by the delusional bush cult will ever change that, just as no amount of spin will change the fact that he's caused this nation disastrous harm, and put as at far greater risk since he first stole office.

It's not JUST the GAO that's saying this, btw, sparky. Virtually all intelligence agencies around the world have been saying this ever since BushCheneyCorp launched their illegal war against the nation that had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed us no threat.

As usual, though, the bubble people in the bush worship cult will casually brush aside and ignore any information that doesn't glorify der fuhrer, by calling it "partisan." You are some very stupid people.

Jonathan Morgenstein:

In response to Mr. Crispin, the GAO wrote its report based on interviews with, and products produced by, the State Department, the Department of Defense (DoD), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). USAID and the DoD fully concurred with the findings of the report, the DNI disagreed with parts, but concurred with the basic assessments of the conditions regarding al Qaeda in the FATA region. So to answer your question, YES, our intelligence services, and our government's people on the ground there DO agree with the GAO's assessment.

dr.kahoor khan hooshaapi:

Mr.Morgenstein,Pakistan did not do anything against terrorists as the passage of eight years and wasting of more than 15 billion American funded dollars,the White House is still at square one regarding its war against terrorism.The American failure against Al-Qaeda is very obvious that Musharraf and his Punjabi Army are not serious in this counter terrorism as its prolong has so many economic and political benefits for the Pakistani Military.The Pakistan Army generals who had been recieving just 5000rs or 75$ the salary of per month,now with the U.S. funded billions,have opened Swiss Bank A/Cs with tens of million dollars and on political side, they are using the American supplied modern weapons to annihilate the Baloch and Pushtoon nationalist which are struggling for the independent of Baluchistan and Pushtoonistan.The Pakistani authorities are deliberately hiding the real fact to the Americans of OBL's presence in Pakistani territory and in the bordering tribal region of both countrie,while the truth is that the Al-Qaeda Chief is neither in Afghanistan nor in Pakistan.But it is a real fact that neither the Pakistanis nor the Afghans or the Americans have the guts to snach the OBL from the cave of the Lions.

Chaotician:

It is a bit naive to believe the George cabal has any concern for American safety or security! From the 2001 blindness to the current dogma based activities in every aspect of this corruption; the only consistent basis for George's actions is the furthering of the transference of power and wealth to Corporatism, the corporate owners and bosses, and the incestious military/industrial global enterprises! In that view, a new treat, a new 911, is just justification for more of the same!

Mark Thomas:

Pakistan indeed stands at the cross-roads. The recent electoral wins have shown that the people there are moderate and do not believe in politics of hate. Our government should open up its eyes and stop supporting military dictators, be it Pakistan or the Middle-east. Pakistan has already done a lot for us in the war on terror.

John White:

Interesting Story, but we also have to give credit to Pakistan for joining us in our 'War on Terror' so far. Since the country joined us, it started experiencing suicide bombers for the first time ever. The fact remains that Pakistan remains our most strong ally to date. So instead of dictating stuff out to them, we should aid them in making mutually beneficial decisions. After all, terrorism serves neither America nor Pakistan!

D Starke:

Let me see -

Let's fund the very people who have sworn to attack us, giving them aid and comfort. And even if this idea isn't ridiculous on it's face, let's remember that Musharraf tried this already with predictable results.

William Crispin:

Lot's of adjectives and emotion (the never ending "I hate Bush stuff")but since when is the GAO a source for international intelligence. It might be helpful to explain this basic fact, but instead you spend all your time bashing Bush and McCain. What in the GAO's report forms the basis for the conclusion and are our intelligence services in agreement with this assessment. C'mon, this seems rather overtly political and thin factually.

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