An examination of some of the 9/11 commission's recommendations - and the results
RECOMMENDATION: "Afghanistan must not again become a sanctuary for international crime and terrorism." The commission called for a "long-term commitment to a secure and stable Afghanistan."
RESULT: And how: The U.S. commitment has been long term, both in dollars and military might. But Afghanistan is far from secure. Afghan civilian deaths remain alarmingly high. President Hamid Karzai's corruption-riddled government has little power outside of Kabul. As Obama seeks to pull out combat troops over the next three years, the government's hand may weaken further. Al-Qaida, however, has had to relocate much of its operational planning to Pakistan and Yemen, where weak governments leave terrorists an opening.
RECOMMENDATION: "The United States should support Pakistan's government in its struggle against extremists with a comprehensive effort that extends from military aid to support for better education, so long as Pakistan's leaders remain willing to make difficult choices of their own."
RESULT: Pakistan has embraced democracy, after years under the military-led regime of Pervez Musharraf. Increased U.S. aid has helped shore up the weak democratic government and deliver some counterterrorism successes.
Yet all of Washington's money and support haven't severed links between militants and Pakistan's army and intelligence services. The Taliban can cross into Afghanistan freely to fight U.S. forces, and Pakistanis harbor extremely negative opinions of the U.S.
Relations between U.S. and Pakistani authorities have been consistently difficult. The U.S. discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden in a military town near Pakistan's capital in May only deepened the mutual mistrust and tension. Pakistani officials were furious that the raid was carried out without any warning to authorities in Islamabad, and that has jeopardized cooperation in the fight against al-Qaida. The U.S. has provided about $20 billion in assistance to Pakistan since 9/11, and many Americans are questioning the wisdom of giving more.
The country's direction is very unpredictable.
RECOMMENDATION: "The problems in the U.S.-Saudi relationship must be confronted, openly."
RESULT: The Saudi government has fought al-Qaida on its own turf and proved a sturdy ally of the U.S. against Iran, yet has struggled to stem the flow of support for groups hostile to the United States. The two countries also haven't seen eye to eye on the wave of protests in North Africa and the Middle East. The commission's call for a "shared commitment to political and economic reform" is unfulfilled.
RECOMMENDATION: A new approach to the Muslim world, one less tolerant of undemocratic governments. "One of the lessons of the long Cold War was that short-term gains in cooperating with the most repressive and brutal governments were too often outweighed by long-term setbacks for America's stature and interests."
RESULT: The Obama administration has seized on the anti-government uprisings of the Arab spring to reposition U.S. foreign policy, moving away from support for strongmen such as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and more toward democratic reforms and respect for human rights. The administration hopes that new democracies in the region will offer frustrated young men greater dignity and new economic opportunities, leaving them less vulnerable to the appeal of extremism. But efforts to re-establish the U.S. as a moral leader around the globe have been hindered somewhat by the stalled U.S.-led peace effort between Israelis and Palestinians, high civilian death rates in Afghanistan and Obama's failure to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay as he promised.
RECOMMENDATION: "The United States should engage other nations in developing a comprehensive coalition strategy against Islamist terrorism."
RESULT: Bush got strong backing from much of the world after 9/11, but that unity splintered when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Still, countries are sharing more intelligence and working together to combat terrorist financing. No government has permitted al-Qaida to operate freely within its borders. Obama's election ushered in a new spirit of cooperation among countries which had often complained of U.S. heavy-handedness and unilateralism under Bush.
RECOMMENDATION: "Congress should create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security."
RESULT: When the Sept. 11 commission issued its report, 88 congressional committees, subcommittees and caucuses claimed at least some jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security.
The commission called the oversight system splintered, dysfunctional, an impediment to improving national security. It also was keenly aware of how hard it is to pry even one inch of turf away from a power-hungry member of Congress, warning presciently that "few things are more difficult to change in Washington than congressional committee jurisdiction and prerogatives."
By 2011, the number of congressional panels claiming jurisdiction had risen to 108. In 2009 alone, the department calculated it spent a collective 66 work years responding to questions from Congress.
"We are constantly briefing staff, appearing at hearings, preparing reports, responding to inquiries," says Napolitano. "It is a problem."
And the problem goes way beyond the hassle of answering to lots of congressional chieftains.
Hamilton warns: "When everyone has oversight, nobody has oversight."
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