2001 memo to Rice contradicts statements about Clinton, Pakistan

Larry Womack
Published: Tuesday September 26, 2006

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A memo received by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shortly after becoming National Security Advisor in 2001 directly contradicts statements she made to reporters yesterday, RAW STORY has learned.

"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda," Rice told a reporter for the New York Post on Monday. "Big pieces were missing," Rice added, "like an approach to Pakistan that might work, because without Pakistan you weren't going to get Afghanistan."

Rice made the comments in response to claims made Sunday by former President Bill Clinton, who argued that his administration had done more than the current one to address the al Qaeda problem before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She stopped short of calling the former president a liar.

However, RAW STORY has found that just five days after President George W. Bush was sworn into office, a memo from counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke to Rice included the 2000 document, "Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al-Qida: Status and Prospects." This document devotes over 2 of its 13 pages of material to specifically addressing strategies for securing Pakistan's cooperation in airstrikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Pakistan obstacle

The strategy document includes "three levers" that the United States had started applying to Pakistan as far back as 1990. Sanctions, political and economic methods of persuasion are all offered as having been somewhat successful.

Other portions of the passages relating to Pakistan marked as "operational details" have been redacted from the declassified memo at the CIA's request.

The document also explores broader strategic approaches, such as a "need to keep in mind that Pakistan has been most willing to cooperate with us on terrorism when its role is invisible or at least plausibly deniable to the powerful Islamist right wing."

But Clarke also made it clear that the Clinton Administration recognized the problem that Pakistan posed in mounting a more sweeping campaign against bin Laden: "Overt action against bin Laden, who is a hero especially in the Pushtun-ethnic border areas near Afghanistan," Clarke speculated in late 2000, "would be so unpopular as to threaten Musharraf's government." The plan notes that, after the attack on the USS Cole, Pakistan had forbidden the United States from again violating its airspace to attack bin Laden in Afghanistan.

The memo sent by Clarke to Rice, to which the Clinton-era document was attached, also urges action on Pakistan relating to al Qaeda. "First [to be addressed,]" wrote Clarke in a list of pending issues relating to al Qaeda, is "what the administration says to the Taliban and Pakistan about ending al Qida sanctuary in Afghanistan. We are separately proposing early, strong messages on both."

A disputed history

The documents have been a source of controversy before. Rice contended in a March 22, 2004 Washington Post piece that "no al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration."

Two days later, Clarke insisted to the 9/11 Commission that the plan had in fact been turned over. "There's a lot of debate about whether it's a plan or a strategy or a series of options, but all of the things we recommended back in January," he told the commission, "were done after September 11th."

The memo was declassified on April 7, 2004, one day before Rice herself testified before the 9/11 Commission.

Excerpts from documents relating to the situation follow:


Pages 11-13 of the Clinton-era document sent to Rice from Clarke, detailing Pakistan's role in the al Qaeda problem. The plan was referred to by Clarke, and later by Rice in public statements:


Page 2 of memo from Clarke to Rice, urging "early, strong messages" to Pakistan on the al Qaeda problem. The Clinton "plan" was attached to this memo: