Counterterrorism: U.S. Agencies Face Challenges Countering the Use of Improvised Explosive Devices in the Afghanistan/Pakistan Region

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-07-12.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                             United States Government Accountability Office

GAO                          Testimony Before the Subcommittee on
                             Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection,
                             and Security Technologies, Committee on
                             Homeland Security, House of

For Release on Delivery
Expected at 10:00 a.m. EDT
Thursday, July 12, 2012

                             U.S. Agencies Face
                             Challenges Countering the
                             Use of Improvised
                             Explosive Devices in the
                             Statement of Charles Michael Johnson, Jr.,
                             Director, International Affairs and Trade

Chairman Lungren, Ranking Member Clarke, and Members of the

I am pleased to be here to discuss the collaborative efforts of U.S.
agencies to detect and prevent the smuggling into Afghanistan of calcium
ammonium nitrate (CAN) fertilizer produced in Pakistan. Approximately
80 percent of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan
contain homemade explosives, primarily CAN smuggled from Pakistan.
These IEDs have been a major source of fatalities among U.S. troops in
Afghanistan and have been used by various insurgent groups in Pakistan
to kill thousands of Pakistani civilians and members of Pakistani security
forces. U.S. officials recognize the threat posed by the smuggling of CAN
and other IED precursors from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and various
U.S. departments, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),
are assisting Pakistan’s government in countering this threat. My remarks
today are based on our May 2012 report on this issue. 1

According to the Department of Defense (DOD), CAN is produced in
Pakistan at two factories. DOD estimates that about 240 tons of CAN—
representing less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the two factories’ total
annual production capacity—is used by insurgents to make IEDs for use
in Afghanistan. When processed and mixed with fuel oil, CAN fertilizer
becomes a powerful homemade explosive. DOD officials noted that only
a small amount of CAN is required to make powerful IEDs. According to
DOD, a 110-pound bag of CAN yields about 82 pounds of bomb-ready
explosive material. This small quantity has the capacity to destroy an
armored vehicle or detonate 10 small blasts aimed at U.S. forces
conducting foot patrols.

Afghanistan outlawed CAN in 2010, but because of demand for CAN as
fertilizer and for IEDs, smugglers bring it into the country, for example, on
trucks hidden under other goods. Afghanistan and Pakistan face
challenges similar to those that the United States and Mexico face in
trying to prevent smuggling across sections of our shared border. U.S.
officials note that Pakistan maintains two primary border crossings along
the approximately 1,500-mile border with Afghanistan, and only a small

 GAO, Combating Terrorism: State Should Enhance Its Performance Measures for
Assessing Efforts in Pakistan to Counter Improvised Explosive Devices, GAO-12-614
(Washington, D.C.: May 15, 2012).

Page 1                                                                    GAO-12-907T
percentage of the trucks crossing the border are inspected. Our May
2012 report contains a video of activity at border crossings along the
Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Our May 2012 report (1) described the status of U.S. efforts to assist
Pakistan in countering IEDs and (2) reviewed the Department of State’s
(State) tracking of U.S.-assisted efforts in Pakistan to counter IEDs. To
describe these efforts, we reviewed documentation from multiple U.S.
agencies—including DHS, State, the Department of Defense (DOD), and
the Department of Justice—to inventory and describe their relevant
activities and performance measures. We also interviewed
representatives of U.S. agencies and international partners in the United
States and Pakistan. 2

In summary, we identified four categories of assistance U.S. agencies
have provided: (1) counter-IED training and equipment, (2) a counter-IED
public awareness campaign, (3) training of border officials, and (4) legal
assistance for laws and regulations to counter IEDs and IED precursors.
We found that each agency providing counter-IED assistance to Pakistan
performs a unique role based on its specialized knowledge and expertise.
DHS, for example, takes primary responsibility for border management
and customs investigation training. DHS conducts joint regional training
and operational exercises for both Pakistani and Afghan border officials,
including international border interdiction training and cross-border
financial investigation training. DHS also plays a lead role in Program
Global Shield to foster cross-border cooperation and initiate
complementary border management and customs operations. 3 According

 More detail on our scope and methodology is available in the issued report. We
conducted this performance audit from October 2011 to May 2012 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan
and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the
evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on
our audit objectives.

 Program Global Shield is an international effort to counter the smuggling of chemical
precursors that could be used to manufacture IEDs, including CAN. The World Customs
Organization, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Interpol, and DHS jointly
initiated this project in 2010 and established it as a program in June 2011 with funding of
about $5.9 million that State provided through its Bureau of International Narcotics and
Law Enforcement Affairs, according to the Bureau’s Global Shield liaison officer.

Page 2                                                                          GAO-12-907T
to DHS, the main goals of Program Global Shield are (1) to identify and
interdict falsely declared explosive precursor chemicals, (2) to initiate
investigations of smuggled or illegally diverted IED materials, and (3) to
uncover smuggling and procurement networks that foster illicit trade.

According to agency officials, U.S. agencies work through various
organizations to coordinate and share information related to assisting
Pakistan with counter-IED efforts. These include the following:

•   The U.S. Embassy-Pakistan Counter-IED Working Group helps to
    keep counter-IED efforts a priority. Coordinated by State, the group
    also includes participants from DHS, DOD, and the Departments of
    Justice and Agriculture as well as the U.S. Agency for International
    Development, the British High Commission, and the United Nations
    Office of Drugs and Crime.

•   The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization
    (JIEDDO) 4 leads DOD’s counter-IED efforts by providing intelligence
    and expertise on IEDs. For example, JIEDDO hosted a global
    conference on homemade explosives in fall 2011 that was attended
    by fertilizer producers and representatives from several agencies.
    JIEDDO conducted several studies and provided technical assistance
    to fertilizer producers on how they could mark the product to help
    inhibit smuggling.

•   The Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
    participates in regular discussions on counter-IED issues with Central
    Command (CENTCOM), Special Operations Command (SOCOM),
    JIEDDO, and the Counter-IED Working Group at the U.S. Embassy in
    Pakistan, which includes DHS.

In providing assistance to Pakistan, which adopted a counter-IED strategy
in 2011, U.S. agencies have encountered a range of challenges. U.S.
officials in Washington, D.C., and Islamabad, Pakistan identified the
following key difficulties that hamper the provision of training and

JIEDDO is an agency of DOD.

Page 3                                                            GAO-12-907T
•   Obtaining visas for U.S. officials. We have previously reported that
    U.S. officials face delays in obtaining visas to travel to Pakistan. 5
    During our January 2012 meetings at the U.S. Embassy, officials from
    several agencies told us that it is difficult to obtain visas for U.S.
    officials, including trainers, to travel to Pakistan. According to officials,
    visa renewals sometimes take up to 6 weeks, which can force trainers
    to leave the country until they get their visa renewed. This has
    sometimes resulted in disruptions and cancelled training courses.

•   Vetting Pakistani officials to receive U.S. training. U.S. law requires
    that U.S. agencies determine whether there is credible evidence of
    gross violations of human rights by security force units or individuals
    slated to receive security assistance. 6 According to U.S. officials,
    Pakistan must provide in advance the names of individuals who will
    be receiving U.S. training in order for them to be vetted. In addition
    U.S. officials stated that Pakistan has not always been timely in
    releasing the names of officials who are to receive the training, which
    can create logistics and scheduling difficulties. For example,
    according to DHS officials, lack of sufficient time to complete the
    vetting process resulted in the cancellation of a Program Global
    Shield training session in October 2011.

•   Ensuring timely delivery of equipment. Problems clearing customs
    and other issues have delayed the transfer of counter-IED equipment
    from the United States to Pakistani forces. For example, as of April
    2012, of the 110 IED jammers that DOD procured in 2009 for Pakistan
    at a cost of about $22.8 million, 55 jammers were still in Karachi
    awaiting release from Pakistani customs. The remaining 55 jammers
    were being kept in storage in the United States until the initial 55 were

•   Reaching agreement on the specifics of U.S. assistance projects.
    Efforts by the United States to reach agreement with Pakistan on the

 GAO, Accountability for U.S. Equipment Provided to Pakistani Security Forces in the
Western Frontier Needs to Be Improved, GAO-11-156R (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 15,
  See 22 U.S.C. 2378d regarding assistance furnished under the Foreign Assistance Act or
the Arms Export Control Act. For programs funded by DOD appropriations, the provision is
limited to training programs and is incorporated annually in the Department of Defense
Appropriations Act. See, for example, Pub. L. No. 112-10, Div. A. sec. 8058.

Page 4                                                                      GAO-12-907T
    specific terms of assistance projects can be challenging. For example,
    the United States and Pakistan planned to establish a facility capable
    of exploiting chemical, technical, biometric, and documentary
    evidence to enable Pakistan to disrupt insurgent networks. According
    to DOD officials, once it became clear that the United States and
    Pakistan could not reach agreement on joint use of the facility, DOD
    terminated its support for establishing this facility.

In addition to these challenges to U.S. efforts to assist Pakistan, U.S.
officials identified several broader challenges to Pakistan’s ability to
counter IEDs and, more specifically, to suppress the smuggling of CAN
and other IED precursors across the Pakistani border with Afghanistan.

•   History of smuggling across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
    Segments of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border remain porous and are
    difficult to patrol. The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is
    approximately 1,500 miles long and much of the terrain along the
    central and northern border is rugged and mountainous. There is a
    history of smuggling goods in both directions at many points along this
    porous border.
•   Availability of CAN substitutes for IEDs. Even if the smuggling of CAN
    could be suppressed, insurgents can readily use another precursor
    chemical to make IEDs. According to DOD, other products available in
    Pakistan—such as potassium chlorate, used in making matches, and
    urea, another commonly used fertilizer—can also be used to produce
    IEDs. At a JIEDDO conference on homemade explosives, a panel of
    experts agreed that insurgents could easily substitute these
    commodities to make IEDs if it becomes more difficult for them to
    access CAN.
•   Smuggling of IED precursors into Afghanistan from other bordering
    countries. While Pakistan is the principal source of CAN coming into
    Afghanistan, China and Iran are also reported to be suppliers of IED
    precursor chemicals. According to State officials, other substitutes for
    CAN, including potassium chlorate and urea, are exported by
    countries other than Pakistan.
•   Delay in finalizing Pakistan’s National Counter-IED Implementation
    Plan. Pakistan’s Directorate General for Civil Defense has developed
    a National Counter-IED Implementation Plan as outlined in the
    National Counter-IED Strategy. However, as of April 2012, the plan
    had not been approved due to concerns over resourcing and other
Our May 2012 report also found that U.S. agencies have developed a
new performance indicator and three targets to track some U.S. assisted

Page 5                                                           GAO-12-907T
                  Pakistani counter-IED efforts. Specifically, State’s fiscal year 2013
                  Mission Strategic and Resource Plan—which is designed to reflect U.S.
                  priorities in Pakistan—included a performance indicator to monitor
                  Pakistan’s implementation of effective measures to prevent illicit
                  commerce in sensitive materials, including chemical precursors used to
                  make IEDs in Afghanistan. To measure progress toward this performance
                  indicator, the plan included three targets: (1) implementation of the
                  Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement for fiscal year 2011, (2)
                  improved competency of Pakistani customs and border officials and
                  improved monitoring at border stations for fiscal year 2012, and (3)
                  Pakistan’s implementation of a real-time truck-tracking system for fiscal
                  year 2013.

                  While the inclusion of a counter-IED performance indicator and targets to
                  measure progress toward the indicator in the fiscal year 2013 MSRP is a
                  positive step, it does not reflect the broad range of U.S. assisted counter-
                  IED efforts in Pakistan. As a result, our report included a recommendation
                  to State to enhance its counter-IED performance measures to cover the
                  full range of U.S. assisted efforts. State concurred with our
                  recommendation and noted that comprehensive metrics would better
                  enable evaluation of progress in counter-IED efforts in Pakistan. State
                  committed to improve assessment of its programs by looking for ways to
                  broaden the scope of existing metrics in order to better reflect and
                  evaluate interagency participation in counter-IED efforts. In its comments
                  on a draft of our report, DHS noted that it is committed to working with
                  interagency partners to improve capacity for tracking counter-IED efforts
                  in Pakistan.

                  Chairman Lungren, Ranking Member Clarke, and Members of the
                  Subcommittee, this concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer
                  any questions you may have at this time.

                  For further information on this statement, please contact Charles Michael
Contacts and      Johnson, Jr., at (202) 512-7331. In addition, contact points for our Offices
Acknowledgments   of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last
                  page of this statement.

                  Individuals who made key contributions to this testimony include Jason
                  Bair, Assistant Director; Aniruddha Dasgupta; David Dayton; Cindy
                  Gilbert; Reid Lowe; Mark Speight; Eddie Uyekawa; and Tom Zingale.

                  Page 6                                                           GAO-12-907T
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