Eight Americans working for the CIA have died in a bomb attack in Afghanistan, the worst against US intelligence officials since 1983.
A bomber wearing an explosive vest entered Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost Province, near Pakistan.
A Taliban spokesman said a member of the group working for the Afghan army had carried out the attack.
It has raised questions about the coalition's ability to protect itself against infiltrators, analysts say.
The bombing was one of at least three deadly incidents across Afghanistan on Thursday. Elsewhere:
* Taliban militants beheaded six men they suspected of being spies for the government in the southern province of Uruzgan, police said
* Four Canadian soldiers and a journalist died in a roadside bomb attack in Kandahar, in the most deadly attack on Canadians in the country for more than two years
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the BBC the Khost bomber was wearing an army uniform when he managed to breach security at the base, detonating his explosives belt in the gym.
Unnamed US officials were quoted as saying that most if not all of the dead Americans were either CIA agents or contractors, although this has not been officially confirmed by either the CIA or the Pentagon.
A further six Americans are reported to have been wounded.
The death-toll was the worst suffered by the CIA since eight officers were killed in a 1983 attack on the US embassy in Beirut.
Reports say the Chapman base is used by provincial reconstruction teams - which include soldiers and civilians - and is protected by some 200 Afghan soldiers.
The base has been described as "not regular" - a phrase that implies it was a centre of CIA operations in Khost province, the BBC's Peter Greste in Kabul says.
It is the biggest single reported loss of life for the CIA since the war began in Afghanistan eight years, and the biggest loss for the US since October.
"We mourn the loss of life in this attack, and are withholding further details pending notification of next of kin," US state department spokesman Ian Kelly said.
A spokesman for Isaf, the international Nato force in Afghanistan, said that "no US and no Isaf military personnel were killed or injured" in the incident.
Khost province - which is one of the Taliban's strongholds - has been targeted by militants in the past year.
The number of foreign civilians deployed in Afghanistan has been rising as international efforts there focus increasingly on development and aid.
Civilians work alongside military reconstruction teams at provincial bases around the country.
A "civilian surge" was one of the three core elements of the new US strategy for Afghanistan announced by US President Barack Obama at the beginning of the month.
This has been the deadliest year for foreign troops since the 2001
Qari Hussain Mehsud, a senior deputy to Hakeemullah Mehsud (pictured above), has taken credit for the Dec. 30, 2009 suicide attack that killed seven CIA operatives and a US civilian on Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province. From The Associated Press:
Hussain said a "CIA agent" contacted Pakistani Taliban commanders and said he'd been trained by the agency to take on militants but that he was willing to attack the U.S. intelligence operation on the militants' behalf. He did not specify the nationality of the "agent."
"Thank God that we then trained him and sent him to the Khost air base. The one who was their own man, he succeeded in getting his target," Hussain told an AP reporter who travelled to see him in South Waziristan on Friday. The region is where Pakistan's army is waging a military offensive aimed at dismantling the Pakistani Taliban.
Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had earlier said the attack was carried out by an Afghan Army officer.
Given that the attack took place in Khost, the Haqqani Network is sure to be behind the attack. But this doesn't mean that Qari Hussain isn't wrong in claiming credit. Qari Hussain is the mastermind behind the suicide terror campaign in Pakistan. He is considered the top trainer of suicide bombers.
While the Haqqanis and the Mehsud branch of the Pakistani Taliban are often considered to operate independently, that isn't quite true. The Haqqanis are actually the patriarchs of the Pakistani Taliban; Hakemullah Mehsud, Mullah Nazir, and Hafiz Gul Bahadar ultimately take direction from the Haqqanis. It is possible the Haqqanis farmed out Qari Hussain's expertise to help carry out the attack.
CIA drone attacks kill six people in northwest Pakistan
By Farzana Shah-Asian Tribune Correspondent in Pakistan
Peshawar, 02 January, (Asiantribune.com):
About three people were killed when missiles from a US drone hit a car Friday in Pakistan's tribal region of North Waziristan.
The second attack in two days by a drone aircraft struck a vehicle carrying suspected militants in Ghundikala village, 15 kilometres east of Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan, close to the Afghan border.
The security officials say that those killed were militants, however it could not be confirmed neither it was ascertained whether any high value target was present in the area when the attack took place.
Earlier a US drone attack killed four militants in Machikhel village, about 25 kilometres east of Miramshah, after which officials suggested some of the dead were Al-Qaeda operatives.
Northwest Pakistan witnessed a rise in the drone attacks in 2009 after President Barack Obama took office.
Seven US missile strikes in the same area of North Waziristan have killed 44 people in the past month.
More than 70 US drone missile strikes have killed at least 662 people in Pakistan since August 2008. The United States does not confirm drone attacks, but its military is the only force that deploys drones in the region.
I doubt that number is really accurate but probably downplayed estimates to reduce "collateral damage" in media (the ONLY proof of USA "truth")
Many innocent died without right to be recognized as dead I presume.....
When Robert Gates, the present US Defence Secretary, was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), George Bush, the then President (1988-92), had visited the CIA headquarters and addressed its officers. In his speech welcoming the President, Gates described the CIA officers as risk-takers and not risk-seekers. This quote from his welcome address is inscribed at the entrance to the CIA building to inspire and motivate future entrants to the CIA.
2. The Soviet, Russian and West European intelligence agencies too have the reputation of being risk-takers. A risk-taking external intelligence agency posts its officers for intelligence collection in remote areas and danger spots and the officers willingly go to such places. Risk-avoiding agencies keep their officers confined to the safe precincts of diplomatic and consular missions, where the risks faced are minimal.
3. The best professionals of the CIA are posted in areas of conflict and not in areas of comfort. There is never a shortage of volunteers to serve in areas of conflict. They are generally attached to US military units deployed in such areas and use the protection provided by such units to do their intelligence collection and special operations work. The CIA keeps rotating them frequently so that its officers are not required to serve in dangerous areas for a long time. The officers, who volunteer for such posts, also have the confidence that their Agency will look after their families during their absence from the US and will not keep them in dangerous areas for too long.
4. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has published a collation of CIA officers who were known to have been killed since 1965 in the performance of their duty. A total of 35 were killed---two in Washington DC and the remaining 33 abroad. The two in Washington DC were killed outside the CIA headquarters in January,1993, by a disgruntled Pakistani Mir Aimal Kansi. He had allegedly worked for the CIA against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s and had some grievances relating to his rehabilitation after the Soviet withdrawal. He went to the entrance of the CIA headquarters and indiscriminately opened fire as the staff were coming to work in the morning and then managed to escape to Pakistan. He was arrested by the Pakistani authorities and extradited to the US. He was sentenced to death by a US court. The sentence was carried out in the US and the body returned to his relatives for burial. He was given a heroes’ burial in his home village by the local Pakistanis.
5. Of the 33 CIA personnel who were killed abroad while performing their duty since 1965, two were the staff of a contractor working for the CIA in Afghanistan and the remaining 31 were regular members of the staff of the Agency. Since 1965, the CIA has suffered the largest number of fatalities in Afghanistan---- a total of 11, nine of them regular members of its staff and the remaining two employees of a CIA contractor. The two deaths in Washington DC were also Afghanistan-related. Thus, the CIA’s role in Afghanistan has resulted in the deaths 13 of the 35 officers killed since 1965.
6.Next to Afghanistan, duties in the Lebanon resulted in the death of nine officers in the 1980s, including that of the then station chief of the CIA in Beirut. The war in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in the deaths of seven officers. The remaining six officers were killed in a plane crash in Africa while allegedly helping the anti-communist insurgents in Angola. Surprisingly, there are no known fatalities incurred by the CIA in Iraq since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
7. The absence of CIA fatalities in Iraq and the large number of fatalities incurred by the CIA in Afghanistan could be attributed to the following reasons:
(a). The CIA personnel posted in Iraq totally depend on the US forces for their physical security while performing their duties. They do not depend on Iraqi personnel. In Afghanistan, they depend largely on American personnel, but there is also a limited involvement of Afghan personnel in protecting them.
(b).In Iraq, the intelligence agencies of the US Defence Department play a more active role in intelligence collection and special operations. The casualties incurred in Iraq are essentially those of the agencies of the Pentagon. In Afghanistan, CIA officers play a very active role in intelligence collection and in facilitating the unmanned Drone strikes in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.
( c ). Individual anti-US officers of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which has had a long history of co-operation with the CIA, know how to identify CIA officers working clandestinely under cover. They expose their identity to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
8. The latest incident in the Khost area of Afghanistan involving the death of seven CIA officers at the hands of an Afghan suicide bomber would be a major loss to the CIA at a critical time in the “war” against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The CIA officers succeeding them would have to start literally from the scratch in building up a new network of contacts. The contacts of the officers, who have been killed, would now be under a question mark due to suspicion regarding the role of any of them in facilitating the suicide bombing.
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: [email protected] )
I think Pakistan is headed for trouble with this incident. There must be ISI hand in this incident given their heavy presence in Af-Pak area and established links with Afghan Taliban. How CIA avenge for this suicide attack is yet to be seen. Most likely there will be start of drone attacks/Covert operations on Quetta Shura
CIA on the front line in war along Pak-Afghan border
By Our Correspondent
Monday, 04 Jan, 2010
John Brennan, the US Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism said, “We’re going to demonstrate through our actions, whether it be in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other places, that Al Qaeda might be able to run but they’re not going to be able to hide.” – Photo by AP.
WASHINGTON: The CIA is on the front line in the war along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and will continue to play this role despite a temporary setback, US President Barack Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser said on Sunday.
Last week, a Taliban group attacked the spy agency’s main base in Afghanistan, killing eight Americans, including the CIA’s station manager and six agents.
John Brennan, the US Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism, told reporters that the CIA was looking very carefully at the circumstances surrounding the Khost attack and was trying to make sure that such incidents didn’t happen again.
“The CIA is on the frontline, right along that border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. As you point out, it is going to take a toll, as far as the people that are there, the expertise that we have,” he said.
“But the CIA is a tremendously resilient organisation. I had the privilege to serve there for 25 years. It has some of the most dedicated men and women in the United States. And so, therefore, we’re confident that the CIA is going to be able to rebound from this and be able to continue to prosecute this war against Al Qaeda.”
Asked should the CIA be out on the frontline like that, Mr Brennan said: “Yes. This is a very, very dangerous threat that Al Qaeda poses to us. We have to take those risks. We have to do it prudently, and that’s why we have to learn from the attack … against the base in Khost.”
The CIA, he said, needed to take those risks because the United States needed to find out “who these individuals are, what they’re planning, and what their next steps are.”
Mr Brennan made these remarks at various TV talk shows on Sunday that focussed on a failed attempt to blow up an American airliner on the Christmas day and on the suicide attack at the CIA base.
Democrat Congresswoman Jane Harman, who along with other US lawmakers also participated in these discussions, said that the United States needed to understand who its enemy was.
“The enemy is Al Qaeda, which is a changed organisation, a loose horizontal affiliation of bad guys that team with whoever is available — they’re very opportunistic, and they have the ability to learn what our vulnerabilities are,” she said.
In one of the shows, Mr Brennan also spoke about five American Muslims being held in Pakistan for allegedly trying to join the extremists. He said that when the parents of these five young men contacted the FBI, the United States immediately contacted Pakistan and the Pakistani authorities acted promptly and caught the suspects.
Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, said that setbacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan were forcing Al Qaeda to flee to Yemen.
“What I meant to say was that in part because we have put so much pressure on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Waziristan, they’re moving to Yemen,” he said.
He warned that Yemen was a vast country where the government was facing uprisings in different places and that’s why it was a “fertile ground for this group to fester in.”
Congresswoman Harman noted that the Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists had no regard for political or religious affiliations of their victims.
“I don’t think that this Abdulmutallab (the Nigerian man who tried to bring down a US airliner) cared who he blew up on the airplane. I don’t think that the Taliban cared who they blew up, sadly, on that volleyball field in Pakistan recently.”
Mr Brennan disagreed with a suggestion that the United States was now opening a second front against Al Qaeda in Yemen.
“I wouldn’t say we’re opening up a second front. This is the continuation of an effort that we’ve had under way since, as I said, the beginning of this administration,” he said.
“We’re going to demonstrate through our actions, whether it be in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other places, that Al Qaeda might be able to run but they’re not going to be able to hide.”
Suspected suicide bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi is seen in this handout photo. The suicide bomber who killed seven CIA officers at a US base in Afghanistan last week was an al Qaeda double-agent from Jordan, NBC News reported. –Reuters Photo/Handout
ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan television station showed on Saturday what it said was the suicide bomber double agent who killed CIA agents in Afghanistan sitting with the Pakistani Taliban leader, and reported he shared US and Jordanian state secrets with militants.
Private television station AAJ showed a video of the bomber, speaking in English but hardly audible, with Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud beside him.
'Jordanian and American intelligence had offered him millions of dollars in exchange for spying on the mujahideen (holy warriors). But he rejected wealth and joined the mujahideen,' said AAJ of Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian.
The channel quoted him by his online persona Abu Dujana al-Khorasani as saying that he 'shared all
secrets of Jordanian and American intelligence with his fellow (militants)'.
If the video is authentic, it points to huge intelligence failures for the United States and its key Middle East ally Jordan.
Pakistan would also feel the heat. It is struggling against Mehsud's growing insurgency while facing relentless US pressure to eliminate militant groups that cross its borders to fight in Afghanistan.
Official sources said that he came to Pakistan with a fake name and later he traveled to tribal areas with his local Taliban guide from where he reportedly entered Afghanistan’s Paktia province.
In this image taken from undated video made available from Taliban sources purpotedly shows Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, right, reading a statement to camera vowing revenge for the death of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, while sitting next to the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud. Jordanian doctor Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, is identified by news organizations to be the man who killed seven CIA employees in a suicide attack in Afghanistan on December 30. The authenticity of this video is unconfirmed.
The suicide strike on the key U.S. intelligence base in Afghanistan had hallmarks of an operation carried out by a national intelligence service, a leading U.S. think-tank has said, apparently hinting that it could be the handiwork of Pakistan’s ISI or its rogue elements.
“The hit was by all account a masterful piece of trade craft beyond the known abilities of a group like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,” U.S. think-tank Stratfors said.
“The Jordanians penetration of the CIA was less like the product of an insurgency than an operation carried out by a national intelligence service. And this is the most troubling aspect for the U.S.,” the think tank said.
The speculation about a possible ISI hand in the suicide attack is being traced back to U.S. and Afghan government sources who said in the analysis of explosives used, it was found they were of standard military grade which points to the ISI.
Stratfors deduction comes even as al-Jazeera TV said the Jordanian bomber Khali Abu Mulal al-Balawi was brought to the U.S. base in Khost in eastern Afghanistan by car from across the border in Pakistan.
The agency which was one of the TV channels which beamed a footage of al-Balawi alongside Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud said the video showed “there was clearly a link between Pakistani Taliban headed by Hakimullah Mehsud and some of the al-Qaeda elements operating in Pakistan.
The Arab TV channel said, this video was expected and “everybody in the tribal border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan was told al-Balawi had recored a message before he went to his mission to blow the American Chapman base.” The channel said that the video would provide the Afghan government “more ammunition” with which to criticise their counterparts in Pakistan. “This is definitely something that is going to put more pressure on the Pakistanis in the future and will definitely make the Afghans and the Americans change their strategy as far as dealing with eastern Afghanistan.”
Stratfors, in an in depth analysis of the hit on the CIA base, said as the Jordanian bomber exited the vehicle on December 30, the security guards at the Chapman base noticed he was behaving strangely. As the guards moved towards al-Balawi screaming for him to take his hands out of his pocket, the Jordanian instead of complying detonated the suicide device he was wearing.
The explosion, Stratfors said killed the bomber, three security contractors, four CIA officers and the Jordanian intelligence official who was his handler. But the vehicle shielded other CIA officers at the scene from the blast. The CIA officers killed included the chief of base at Khost and an analyst, who was the agency’s foremost expert on al-Qaeda.
“The U.S. cannot hope to reach a satisfactory solution in Afghanistan unless it can win the intelligence war. But the damage done to CIA in this attack cannot be overestimated. At least one of the agency’s top analysts was killed. In an intelligence war, this is equivalent to a sinking of an aircraft carrier in a naval war,” Stratfors said.
Leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakeemullah Mehsud. – AFP (File Photo)
PESHAWAR: Leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakeemullah Mehsud, who had accepted responsibility for the deadly suicide attack on a CIA base camp in Afghanistan, appears to have been killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan, a senior security official said.
The attack has left at least ten people dead, amongst them are three militant commanders, the official said.
“It is immaterial to say how many have been killed in the attack. The important thing for us is whether Hakeemullah is amongst those killed”, the official said, requesting he not be named.
He said that the TTP chief was the target of the drone attack. “He has probably been killed.”
The Taliban have denied the TTP chief has been killed. TTP spokesman, Azam Tariq said that he and Hakeemullah both were alive and safe. "We were in Shaktoi but not at the compound which has been struck", he told a reporter in the region in a satellite phone call.
The official said that the missile struck the compound of Fazal Mehsud alias Uqabi in Shaktoi in the Sararogha sub-district of South Waziristan. The area borders North Waziristan.
The 28-year-old Hakeemullah had succeeded Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed a drone attack on the night of August 5 last.
The TTP had claimed responsibility for the deadly suicide attack on the CIA forwarding operating base Chapman in the southeastern province of Khost on December 30 last.
The claim was followed by a video of the suicide bomber, a Jordanian double-agent Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi. Sitting next to Balawi in the video was Hakeemullah Mehsud.
The United States had vowed to hunt down those responsible for the deadly attack on the CIA post and Pakistani intelligence officials say the Thursday’s attack to eliminate Hakeemullah appeared to be CIA’s revenge for the Khost bombing.