Afghan officials see foreign spy agency behind bloody hotel attack

AfghanistanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Afghanistan’s intelligence community believes a foreign spy agency was behind last week’s bloody attack on a luxury hotel that left nine people dead. Last Thursday evening, a group of young men entered the five-star Serena Hotel, located a few blocks away from the Presidential Palace and key government ministry buildings in Afghan capital Kabul. Three hours later, the men, who had hidden handguns in their shoes, entered the hotel restaurant and shot indiscriminately at patrons. They were eventually shot dead by Afghan Special Forces, but not before they had managed to shoot over a dozen people at point blank range, killing nine, including two Canadians, an American and a Paraguayan. Four children and a senior reporter with Agence France Presse were among the dead, while the wounded included an Afghan member of parliament. Many blamed the attack on the Taliban or the Haqqani network, an Islamist militant group responsible for countless high-profile attacks in Kabul and other Afghan cities. Soon afterwards, the Taliban issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, which they said was aimed at demonstrating the ease with which Afghan government security measures could be evaded. On Monday, however, a press release issued by the Office of the Afghan President said a “foreign intelligence service”, rather than an indigenous militant group, was behind the attack. The press release, which bore the signature of Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, said intelligence officials from the National Directorate for Security had briefed Afghanistan’s National Security Council about the findings of an investigation on the attack. In the statement, which was issued in both Pashto and English, the President’s Office said that neither the Taliban nor the Haqqani network “were even aware” that the attack at the Serena Hotel was going to take place. Instead, the operation “was a direct attack by an intelligence service outside the country”, said the statement. A subsequent announcement released by the Afghan government placed blame on Pakistani intelligence services, saying they were directly involved in the attack. It also stated that an unnamed “Pakistani diplomat” had been seen filming inside the Serena Hotel “a while ago”. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected Kabul’s allegations, saying it was “highly disturbing that attempts are being made to somehow implicate Pakistan in this terrorist incident”.

 

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Afghan government blames Pakistan for attempt on spy chief’s life

Assadullah KhaledBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Afghan President and senior cabinet officials have described the recent assassination attempt against the country’s spy chief as the work of “a professional intelligence service” and said they would be asking Pakistan “for clarification”. Assadullah Khaled, who heads Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security (NDS), survived a suicide attack last Thursday in Kabul. According to Afghan officials, Khaled was attacked by a member of the Taliban posing as a “peace emissary”, who blew himself up as he was meeting Khaled to discuss a possible peace deal with the government. Media reports suggest that the bomber had concealed explosives in his undergarments and that he was not searched out of “respect for [Afghan] traditions and hospitality”. Shortly after the attack, the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility and said they would try to kill Khaled again. But speaking to reporters last week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that “more professional hands” were behind the attack on Khaled. The Afghan leader described the suicide attack as a “very sophisticated and complicated act by a professional intelligence service” and said the Afghan security services “know [for] a fact” that the suicide bomber had entered the country from Pakistan. President Karzai stopped short of directly implicating the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) of directly planning the attack; but he said his government would be “seeking a lot of clarifications from Pakistan” about the bombing. Last Sunday Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Janan Musazai told reporters that Afghan officials were “100 percent sure” the suicide bomber had come to Afghanistan from the Pakistani city of Quetta. Read more of this post

Proposed Afghan spy chief divides Western, Afghan officials

Assadullah KhaledBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last month we reported Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s plan to appoint one of his most trusted advisors, Assadullah Khaled, to lead the country’s intelligence agency. There appears to be a slight problem with this proposal: Khaled is known as a fierce character in Afghan politics, who has been accused by Western diplomats of corruption, extreme brutality and narcotics trafficking. During the past few years, Khaled, currently Afghanistan’s Minister for Border and Tribal Affairs, has reportedly become “almost a surrogate family member” of the Karzai family, and is viewed “as a son” by the Afghan President. He also has a close relationship with officials in the United States Central Intelligence Agency, who seem to appreciate Khaled’s hardline stance against Pakistan. Moreover, Khaled is an ethnic Pashtun, that is, he belongs to the largest Afghan ethnicity, whose members occupy central Afghanistan. However, he has strong connections with leading figures in the former Northern Alliance, whose support is crucial for the survival of the Karzai regime. Some Western officials, therefore, see him as a potential unifying figure in the country. But in a confidential cable sent to the US Department of State by the American Embassy in Kabul in 2009, and leaked by WikiLeaks, Khaled was described by one senior American diplomat as “exceptionally corrupt and incompetent”. Later that same year, a high-level Canadian diplomat publicly accused Khaled of participating in international narcotics trafficking and systematically employing torture against his political enemies in Kandahar. The diplomat, who served in Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion, was referring to Khaled’s tenure as Governor of Kandahar Province, where he personally run what Kandaharis described as “the torture prison”. Colvin is apparently not alone voicing such concerns. Read more of this post

Afghan President replaces spy chief with controversial figure

Assadullah KhaledBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The office of the Afghan President announced yesterday the dismissal of the country’s intelligence chief and his replacement with a controversial official accused by Canadian and British sources of using torture to implement his policies. Speaking to reporters in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai thanked Rahmatullah Nabil, the outgoing Director of the National Directorate for Security (NDS), for his service, and said he would soon be appointed ambassador to a foreign country. According to Karzai’s representatives, the dismissal falls under the President’s decision that “no intelligence Director could serve longer than two years”. But observers point out that Nabil’s dismissal is part of a broader bureaucratic turf-war between the Office of the President and the Afghan Parliament, over the control of Afghan intelligence and military agencies. Earlier this month, the Parliament managed to oust two senior government officials, Minister of the Interior Besmillah Mohammadi and Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak. Both men are considered to be among President Karzai’s closest political allies. Nabil’s dismissal is therefore seen by many as an act of retribution by the President against defiant Afghan parliamentarians. What is arguably more interesting, however, is Karzai’s choice of the person to replace the fired Nabil, who is no other than Assadullah Khaled, currently Afghanistan’s Minister for Border and Tribal Affairs. According to sources in Kabul, Khaled’s appointment to lead the NDS is a matter of days, and that is appointment can already be considered as having been “confirmed”. This is despite the fact that Khaled is known for resorting to brutal torture and outright intimidation to get his way, especially during his time as Governor of the province of Kandahar. While there, he built a notorious reputation for abducting, torturing, and often killing, his personal and political opponents. Read more of this post

Analysis: Nepotism, ethnic favoritism impede Afghan spy agency

NDS spokesman Lutfullah MashalBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Hundreds of Taliban insurgents were involved in the unprecedented attacks that shook the Afghan capital Kabul and several other key locations around the country last week. And yet not a single Afghan or foreign intelligence operative appeared to have the slightest idea the attacks were coming. No wonder that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was one of many government officials who openly admitted that the “infiltration in Kabul and other provinces [was] an intelligence failure for us”. But why is Afghan intelligence so notoriously unreliable? The answer to this question is complicated, but according to an excellent analysis piece published this week in The Christian Science Monitor, much of it centers on two chronic issues that permeate Afghan society: nepotism and ethnic favoritism. When one speaks of Afghan intelligence, one mainly refers to the National Directorate for Security (NDS), an institution established by the United States, and funded almost entirely by Washington. The roots of the NDS are in the Northern Alliance, the indigenous Afghan opposition to the Taliban, which fought alongside the United States during the 2001 invasion of the Central Asian country. Like most other institutions in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance is composed largely by members of a single tribe, namely Tajiks, many of whom are from Afghanistan’s Panjshir province. As a result, when Washington set up the NDS, it selected its leadership from among the Panjshir Tajiks. They, in turn, relied on their local networks to staff the newly formed organization. As a result, today around 70 percent of the NDS’ staff “hail from Panjshir or have ties with the Northern Alliance”, says The Monitor. This helps establish rapport and ethnic unity among the institution’s 30,000-strong employee community; but it has virtually eliminated the NDS’ ability to collect intelligence from among rival ethnic groups and factions, including the Haqqani Network and the nearly all-Pashtun Taliban. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #558

Amrullah Saleh

Amrullah Saleh

►► US government says Iran aids al-Qaeda. The US Treasury Department has accused the Iranian authorities of aiding al-Qaeda, saying Tehran had entered into financial agreements with six people believed to be al-Qaeda operatives in Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and Pakistan. According to Treasury officials, one of the six “is believed to have recently ascended to the No. 2 position in Al Qaeda, reporting directly to the organization’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahri”.
►►Interview with Afghan spy chief. CNN has an exclusive interview with Amrullah Saleh, the –usually media-shy– former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security. The interview is essentially one long attack on Pakistan, which Saleh blames for destabilizing Afghanistan, hiding and sheltering al-Qaeda members, and providing funding and arms to the Taliban.
►►Sudan’s spy chief secretly visited France in June. The director of Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Services (NISS), Mohamed Atta al-Moula Abbas, secretly traveled to Paris last June. He held talks there with Read more of this post

Diplomat sees Pakistani spies behind Afghan intel chief’s killing

Bhadrakumar

Bhadrakumar

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An Indian diplomat has authored an editorial suggesting that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) may be behind the recent assassination of an Afghan senior intelligence official. Abdullah Laghmani, who headed Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security (NDS), appears to have been specifically targeted earlier this week in a suicide attack that killed 23 people in the town of Mehtarlam. The Taliban have formally assumed responsibility for the attack. But M.K. Bhadrakumar, a longtime Indian diplomat who has served as India’s ambassador to Afghanistan, suggests that Laghmani may have been targeted by the ISI. The diplomat says that the ISI, whose deep links with the Afghan Taliban have long been established, has been “stalking” Laghmani ever since the late 1990s, when he was active in Afghanistan’s anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0091

  • McCain denies private agreement with CIA torture tactic. A recently released memo suggests that Republican US Senator John McCain, famous for his stance against torture, privately agreed with a CIA six-day sleep-deprivation technique.
  • CIA rejects further declassifications on torture-related material. The CIA said on Monday that it would release no more documents related to the Bush administration’s torture and detention policies, because disclosing the information “will threaten national security”. The ACLU called this an affront to the Obama Administration’s policies.
  • Taliban kill Afghan intelligence chief. Abdullah Laghmani, who headed the National Directorate for Security (NDS) was among at least 23 people, including a number of senior officials, killed in the suicide attack. This was one of the few times that the Taliban specifically targeted intelligence officials.

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