ISIS in Afghanistan is now more dangerous than the Taliban, say experts

ISIS Islamic State AfghanistanThe Islamic State group in Afghanistan is now more threatening than the Taliban to both Afghan and Western interests, according to some experts, who warn that many of its fighters are moving there from the Middle East. It was in late 2014 when the Islamic State, known formerly as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), made its initial appearance in Afghanistan. Soon an official Islamic State affiliate emerged in Afghanistan, calling itself Islamic State – Khorasan Province. Security observers estimated the group’s strength to below 150 armed fighters, most of them Pakistani Taliban who had sought refuge in Afghanistan, or small cadres of Afghan Taliban who pursued a more globalized Salafist agenda. Aided by the growing worldwide notoriety of its parent organization in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State – Khorasan Province grew in size in 2015 and 2016. Its armed cadres were joined by Salafist-jihadists from Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, as well as by radical Muslims from China’s northwestern Xinjiang Province. In 2016, as the Islamic State began retreating in the Middle East, fighters from there gradually began to make their way to Afghanistan, adding to the numerical strength of the organization’s Khorasan Province branch.

Today, the strength of the Islamic State in Afghanistan is concentrated in four northeastern Afghan provinces, Nuristan, Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman. Nearly all of these provinces border Pakistan and none are far from the Afghan capital Kabul. According to the Associated Press’ Kathy Gannon, who wrote an extensive article about the current state of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, the primary military goal of the group’s Khorasan Province branch is to expand its territory. Some believe that the Islamic State aspires to one day conquer Jalalabad, a city of nearly 400,000 residents that serves as the administrative center of Nangarhar Province. This aspiration is not delusional; Gannon cites an unnamed US intelligence official who insists that the Islamic State is now a more deadly threat than the Taliban to Afghan and Western security. Islamic State fighters are acquiring increasingly sophisticated military hardware, which enables them to broaden their tactical capabilities. Additionally, unlike the Taliban, who largely follow a policy of limiting their attacks on government and military targets, the Islamic State appears to be deliberately targeting civilians. What is more, security experts see these attacks as “practice runs for even bigger attacks in Europe and the US”. In other words, the Islamic State – Khorasan Province is actively using its Afghan base to plan “external attacks in the US and Europe [and] it’s just a matter of time” before these occur, says a US intelligence official.

According to Gannon, the growth of the Islamic State in Afghanistan is so alarming that some security experts are beginning to see the Taliban as a potential partner of the West in containing the danger. One expert says that the Taliban remain bigger and stronger than the Islamic State, and their fighters “know the terrain [and] territory” of northeastern Afghanistan. Furthermore, the Islamic State has declared war on the Taliban and the two groups are active adversaries in the region. Gannon claims that Russia would not be opposed to the idea of utilizing the Taliban to fight off the Islamic State. As intelNews reported last month, Russia’s Federal Security Service warned that thousands of Islamic State fighters were operating in Afghanistan’s northern border regions and were attempting to destabilize former Soviet Republics with substantial Muslim populations.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 June 2019 | Permalink

Star on CIA’s memorial wall honors employee who took her own life

CIA memorial wallA new star that was recently added to the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s memorial wall is seen by some as a way to draw attention to the mental pressures that come with the job, while others view it as disrespectful to the Agency’s mission. The specially designated wall is located at the main entrance lobby of the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It was created in 1974 and displays a star for each of the CIA’s personnel who have perished in the line of duty while working for the Agency. Today it displays nearly 130 stars, which span the CIA’s 72-year history.

The CIA holds an annual ceremony in recognition of its fallen members, at which time new stars are usually added to the memorial wall. Among them there is a star for Ranya Abdelsayed, who died on August 28, 2013, while employed by the CIA in Kandahar, Afghanistan. However, unlike the other 19 known deaths of CIA personnel in Afghanistan since 2001, Abdelsayed reportedly died by suicide. Her lifeless body was found by a colleague after she shot herself to death at Firebase Gecko, an International Security Assistance Force base in Afghanistan, which is commanded by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It is believed that Abdelsayed’s star is the only star on the CIA’s memorial wall that recognizes a CIA employee who took her own life.

In an article published on Sunday, The Washington Post’s Ian Shapira reports that not everyone at CIA agrees that Abdelsayed deserves to have a star on the Agency’s memorial wall. Shapira spoke to Nicholas Dujmovic, a recently retired CIA historian, who claims that Abdelsayed’s star “must absolutely come off the wall” because it violates the CIA’s own criteria for this highest of honors. Dujmovic opines that the memorial wall is reserved for deaths of CIA personnel that are “of an inspirational or heroic character”, typically deaths that are caused by hazardous conditions or violent actions by adversaries. The CIA historian tells The Washington Post that he has researched past deaths of CIA personnel and fears that “there has been an erosion of understanding in CIA leadership for at least two decades about what the wall is for and who is it that we’re commemorating”.

The paper reports that Dujmovic made his views known to CIA officials when the Agency’s Merit Awards Board decided to include a star in honor of Abdelsayed. But the Board upheld its decision, and so did the CIA’s director at the time, John Brennan. He told The Post that he stands by that decision today, arguing that Abdelsayed’s death was “something the Agency needed to recognize as being one of those unfortunate consequences of the global challenges the CIA addresses”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 May 2019 | Permalink

News you may have missed #804

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►CIA officer reportedly among dead in Afghanistan bombing. The attack, which was carried out in a remote area of Kandahar Province, occurred when a guard working for the Afghan intelligence service detonated a suicide vest as a delegation of American coalition members and Afghan intelligence officials arrived at the intelligence office in the Maruf District. The blast killed Ghulam Rasool, the deputy intelligence director for Kandahar Province, two of his bodyguards, another Afghan intelligence official, and some Americans, including the CIA officer. A spokeswoman for the CIA declined to comment.
►►Canadian intel officer was ‘on Russian payroll for years’. Former navy intelligence officer Jeffrey Paul Delisle, who pleaded guilty this month to spying, was leaking secrets to Russia, sending classified data about Canada as well as the United States, according to David Jacobson, the US ambassador in Ottawa. So far, the Canadian government has refrained from revealing the identity of “the foreign entity” to whom Delisle passed the classified information. Ambassador Jacobson refused to specify the nature of the information, saying only that “there was a lot of highly classified material”.
►►Panama wants to adopt euro as legal tender. Panama, one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, wants to adopt the euro as legal tender to run alongside the country’s US dollar economy. Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli made the request to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to Europe. The president indicated he had every faith that the crisis in the eurozone would soon be at an end, adding that Panama “would be possibly the only country in the world to have two currencies, the euro and the dollar”.

News you may have missed #716 (analysis edition)

Mordechai VanunuBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Kabul attacks show intel failures in Afghanistan. Dozens, possibly hundreds of people would have been involved in training, equipping and then infiltrating into the heart of Kabul the large number of insurgents who were prepared to fight to a certain death in the Afghan capital last Sunday. Yet neither Afghan nor foreign intelligence operatives appeared to have any idea that an unprecedented wave of attacks was about to engulf both Kabul and several other key locations around the country. So it seems that Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have a point when he says that the “infiltration in Kabul and other provinces is an intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO and should be seriously investigated”.
►►Report claims China spies on US space technology. China is stealing US military and civilian space technology in an effort to disrupt US access to intelligence, navigation and communications satellites, according to a report authored by the State and Defense Departments. The report (.pdf) argues China should be excluded from recommendations made to the US government to ease restrictions on exports of communications and remote-sensing satellites and equipment. Chinese officials have denied the report’s allegations, calling it a “Cold War ghost”.
►►The long and sordid history of sex and espionage. Using seduction to extract valuable information is as old as the Old Testament —literally— Whether from conviction or for profit, women —and men— have traded sex for secrets for centuries. The Cold War provided plenty of opportunities for so-called “honey-pot” scandals. Perhaps the most dramatic case of seduction in recent times involved Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu. In 1986 he visited London and provided The Sunday Times with dozens of photographs of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program. But Mossad was on his trail and a female agent —Cheryl Ben Tov— befriended him (reportedly bumping into him at a cigarette kiosk in London’s Leicester Square). She lured him to Rome for a weekend, where he was drugged and spirited to Israel.

News you may have missed #690

Katya ZatuliveterBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Interview with Katia Zatuliveter. Just over three months ago Katia Zatuliveter was fighting to clear her name over claims she was a Russian spy who had passed British military secrets to Moscow. Now, in her first newspaper interview since winning her appeal against deportation from the UK, Katia Zatuliveter has told The Daily Telegraph why she does not support Vladimir Putin.
►►US Special Forces in Afghanistan to transfer to CIA. Top US Pentagon officials are considering putting elite special operations troops under CIA control in Afghanistan after 2014. If the plan were adopted, the US and Afghanistan could say there are no more U.S. troops on the ground in the war-torn country because once the SEALs, Rangers and other elite units are assigned to CIA control, even temporarily, they are not considered soldiers.
►►Indian army accused of spying on government officials. The Indian army is accused of using two surveillance vehicles to snoop near the offices and houses of senior Indian Defense Ministry officials. The vehicles with “off the air interceptors” were alleged to be parked in various localities in the New Delhi. Similar equipment is said to be used by the National Technical Research Organisation to listen to conversations without bugging the premises. The Defense Ministry has reportedly ordered a probe by the country’s Intelligence Bureau.

News you may have missed #679

Salem al-HassiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►New spy chief in Libya. Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council yesterday appointed a lifelong opponent of slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as the country’s new intelligence chief. Salem al-Hassi, who was involved in a bid to assassinate Gaddafi in 1984, was appointed as the intelligence chief at a meeting of the council.
►►Anonymous hackers release German classified information. Hackers from the group Anonymous said last week they had accessed classified German files and posted them online, revealing details of the country’s military operations in Afghanistan. The military documents were collected for an inquiry, now finished, into a September 2009 airstrike by US jets under German orders that killed more than 140 Taliban fighters and Afghan civilians. Anonymous said it obtained the data from a server at the Bundestag  (German parliament).
►►Did Chinese espionage lead to F-35 delays? Did Chinese cyber spying cause the United States’ F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s cost spikes and production delays? This is the question being asked by US Pentagon budget officials, according to industry magazine Aviation Week. Chinese spies apparently hacked into secure conference calls and listened to meetings discussing the classified technologies aboard the jets. In particular, China may have stolen info about the F-35’s secure communications and antenna systems, leading to costly software rewrites and other redesigns to compromised parts of the plane.

Revealed: Afghan government at war with ‘CIA vigilante group’

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Very little has been written about the Kandahar Strike Force, a controversial CIA-funded vigilante group operating in Afghanistan’s Kandahar, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces. In 2009, The New York Times reported that the late Ahmed Wali Karzai, notorious drug lord and younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, helped the CIA run the group. But ever since Wali Karzai’s assassination, in July of this year, the CIA-operated group appears to be engaged in a brutal war, not with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but with provisional Afghan authorities. The Christian Science monitor spoke to the former leader of the Kandahar Strike Force, Atal Afghanzai, who is currently in prison, having been convicted of shooting dead a senior Afghan police commander in broad daylight. The group is made up of elite members of Afghanistan’s regular army, selected by CIA case officers and trained by US Special Forces personnel in Kandahar’s Camp Gecko, a former al-Qaeda base built by Osama bin Laden’s forces in 1996. The group operates outside the institutional parameters of the Afghan government, and answers directly to the CIA, says The Monitor, which claims to have corroborated this information with “US diplomats, other Western officials, and Afghan authorities”. The group’s imprisoned former leader told the newspaper that he and his men were paid directly by the CIA, and that they were transported by United States Blackhawk helicopters to various locations around the country, where they were expected to conduct “raids on Taliban targets at a moment’s notice”. Afghanzai claims that the group’s operations were so effective that they received letters of appreciation by no other than Hamid Karzai. But the idyllic relationship between the Kandahar Strike Force and the Afghan government appears to have ended, as members of the group are now accused of “extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and larceny”. Read more of this post