Washington, Apr 18 : Even after six years of the 9/11 air attacks on its twin towers and Pentagon, the US still does not have a coherent plan to destroy a key staging area for terrorist attacks in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the US Congress' audit and investigative arm, has said in its new report.
It said that there is "no comprehensive plan" to destroy the terrorist threat and close down the safe haven in FATA
Washington regards the FATA belt as a key sanctuary for top terrorists who masterminded the 9/11 attacks. It is also seen as a staging area for al-Qaeda attacks in support of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where US and NATO troops have suffered heavy casualties battling a long drawn insurgency.
US officials have said before that al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar are believed to be seeking refuge in the tribal areas, a charge vehemently denied by Pakistan.
The GAO report further said that the area was serving as a training centre for new terrorist operatives to stage attacks in such areas as the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Officials from both the US and Pakistan agreed that "Al-Qaeda had regenerated its ability to attack the US and had succeeded in establishing a safe haven in Pakistan's Fata."
It also urged relevant US security authorities to develop a comprehensive strategy to eradicate the FATA terrorist threat. As elements of national power falls under the authority of numerous US government agencies, a coherent plan was necessary to ensure that the full capacity of the US government was focused on meeting national security goals, the GAO said.
"We believe that such a plan would help to ensure coordination, integration, and implementation of US efforts to close the terrorist safe haven in the Fata," it said.
Reacting to the report, Democratic lawmaker Howard Berman, also the head of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, said: "It is appalling that there is still no comprehensive, interagency strategy concerning this critical region, and this lack of foresight is harming US national security."
"Even after the passage of congressional mandates and the administration's own directives, we're still wandering around in a metaphorical desert rather than mapping out a coherent plan," he said and added that Washington should talk to the new civilian leadership in Pakistan to devise a "plan for victory over the extremist elements."
The foreign affairs committee has scheduled a Congressional hearing next month to investigate issues highlighted in the GAO report, which said that any comprehensive plan should place someone directly in charge of a multi-department effort to improve accountability and articulate a clear strategy to destroy the "FATA terrorist sanctuary."