Oct 31, 2007

Congressman John Tierney (D-MA): Is US effectively Confronting International Terrorism?

May 2007: Congressman John Tierney (D-MA), chairman of subcommittee National security and foreign affairs, who visited Pakistan in 2007, held the hearing entitled “Extremist Madrassas, Ghost Schools, and U.S. Aid to Pakistan: Are We Making the Grade on the 9/11 Commission Report Card?”, in part, because of the low marks given to the Administrations’ policies in preventing extremism in Pakistan on the 9/11 Commission Report Card and how that affects U.S. national security interests.

Congressman opening statements were, "We begin with the 9/11 Commission, whose report cautioned us of a “generational struggle” whose “long-term success demands the use of all elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and homeland defense.”

The 9/11 Commission also warned that “[i]f we favor one tool while neglecting others, we leave ourselves vulnerable and weaken our national effort.” The Commission stressed the importance that any offensive efforts “…be accompanied by a preventative strategy that is as much, or more, political as it is military.”

Hearing looked at an important question, "What is the effect of Extremist madrassas and dysfunctional Education system in Pakistan on US National security in long term?"

Now some facts :

1. Almost all 911 terrorists spent some time in Pakistan, travelled to north south nexus of Kandhar-Quetta-Karachi and 911 commission report reminded of extremist madrassas as incubators of violent extremism.
2. In Afghanistan, senior U.S., NATO and Afghan military officials told the congressional delegation of their forces being continually attacked by Taliban foes, who plan and stage their insurgent operations in Pakistan before pouring across the border to kill our troops.

Then Congressman Tierney briefed the threat given by mullahs at Lal Masjid if any efforts were made to stop them from imposing shariah in Pakistan.

Then Congressman looked objectively to the root of the problem:

Extremism and jihadi curriculum at madrassas are only one side of the problem, however, as Pakistan’s public school system has utterly failed to provide a viable alternative for millions of poor Pakistani families.

He then compared US assistance to Pakistan: $974m for military and mere $61m for education.

Administrative have asked for 33% reduction in development assistance that includes education assistance to Pakistan.

Then Congressman quoted some numbers:

a. Pakistan has 55 million school-aged children
b. Only 13 million out of 27 million between 5-9 yrs attend any school.
c. 50% of these 13 million will drop out before finishing primary school.

Pakistan itself only spends a minuscule two percent of its gross domestic product on education. Untrained, unmotivated and absenteeism-plagued teachers have led to the phenomenon of so-called “ghost schools” – where buildings sit idle or filled with students chaperoned by “minders” rather than educators.

All of us hope to support the Pakistani people in their efforts to achieve for themselves a stable, prosperous and free nation. But our national security interests in the future of Pakistani children are much more acute. Will we be safe over the next 5, 10, or 20 years as thousands – perhaps millions – more kids learn jihad at extremist madrassas instead of learning real-world skills to become productive citizens in their communities?

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