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'The US has not shut terror havens in Pakistan'

September 16, 2008
United States Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama created a storm when he told American television commentator Bill O'Reilly recently that Pakistan is using money the United States gave it to fight terrorism to 'prepare for a war against India'.

After the 9/11 attacks, the US gave Pakistan over $10.5 billion (about Rs 42,000 crore) for military, economic, and development activities in the hope that Pakistan would use part of that money to bring order and control to its Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which shares a border with Afghanistan and has grown into a safe haven for extremists and terrorists.

After five years, the US administration asked the Government Accountability Office to assess progress in meeting these national security goals. Charles Michael Johnson Junior led a team that 'compared national security goals against assessments conducted by US agencies and reviewed available plans', and produced two important reports.

The GAO confirmed that the US administration lacks a comprehensive plan to destroy the terrorist threat and close down the safe havens in Pakistan's FATA. It also pointed out many examples to show that there is an urgent need to increase supervision and accountability over the money disbursed to Pakistan from the coalition support funds.

Thus, the US gave Pakistan more than $200 million (about Rs 800 crore) for air defence radars, without checking if these were needed for its war on terrorists. Likewise, $45 million (about Rs 180 crore) was given for road and bunker construction, but the GAO team that visited Pakistan found no evidence of such construction.

Some US Congressmen and Senators also raised the possibility that Pakistan was using this money to increase its conventional warfare capability that can be deployed against India.

Johnson, director, international counterterrorism and Afghanistan/Pakistan related issues, spoke to Sheela Bhatt recently at the GAO headquarters in Washington, DC.

What was the reaction to your report in the US Congress, and within the administration?

Well, obviously the GAO works as an investigative arm of Congress and we did this work with several committees -- the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, and the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. They were concerned that there was no sufficient evidence and oversight over the use of coalition support funds provided to Pakistan by the US government.

How hopeful are you that the contents of your report will result in positive action?

Oh, absolutely! We are hopeful that the recommendations we made for enhancing the oversight of these funds will actually be implemented. As a matter of fact, the department of defence knows that they were going to implement the many recommendations that we have made in our report on improving oversight.

Image: A policemen mans a bunker after a suicide attack on a military convoy at Matta in the Swat district of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. Photograph: Tariq Mahmood/AFP/Getty Images.

Also read: Barak Obama and the Pakistan conundrum

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