Were Pakistani spies behind 2009 attack that killed seven CIA employees?

FOB ChapmanTwo recently declassified United States government documents suggest that Pakistani intelligence officers may have been behind a suicide attack that killed seven employees of the Central Intelligence Agency in Afghanistan. The attack took place at the Forward Operating Base Chapman, a US military outpost in Khost, Afghanistan. It was carried out by Humam al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor who posed as a disillusioned member of al-Qaeda and had convinced his CIA handlers that he could lead them to the whereabouts of al-Qaeda’s deputy Emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri. During a scheduled visit to FOB Chapman on December 30, 2009, al-Balawi detonated a suicide vest, instantly killing himself and nine other people, including a Jordanian intelligence officer and seven CIA employees. The bloody incident, which marked the most lethal attack against the CIA in nearly three decades, was widely blamed on al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.

However, a set of newly released US State Department cables seem to suggest that Pakistani intelligence may have been behind the attack. The documents were released by George Washington University’s National Security Archive through a Freedom of Information Act request. One document, dated January 11, 2010, discusses the FOB Chapman attack in association with the Haqqani network, a Taliban-aligned Pashtun militant group that operates in Afghanistan but is headquartered in Pakistan. Western security observers have long considered the Haqqani network to be a paramilitary arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate. The January 11 State Department cable suggests that senior Haqqani network operatives met with their ISI handlers at least twice in the weeks prior to the FOB Chapman attack. Another cable, dated February 6, 2010, suggests that the ISI gave the Haqqani operatives $200,000 to step up attacks against Western forces in Afghanistan. A specific order was given at the meeting to carry out “the attack on Chapman [and] to enable a suicide mission by an unnamed Jordanian national”, presumably al-Balawi.

But an unnamed US intelligence official, who read the declassified documents, told the Associated Press news agency that the documents were “information report[s], not finally evaluated intelligence”. The material was thus “raw, unverified and uncorroborated”, said the official, and clashed with the broad consensus in the US Intelligence Community, which was that the attack was planned by al-Qaeda, not by the Haqqani network. The Associated Press contacted the Pakistani embassy in Washington, DC, about the National Security Archive revelations, but received no response.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 19 April 2016 | Permalink

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News you may have missed #344

  • CIA base in Afghanistan hit again. A suicide car bomber killed one civilian and wounded two security guards at the entrance to the CIA’s Forward Operating Base Chapman, in Afghanistan’s Khost province. It is the same base where Jordanian suicide bomber Humam Khalil al-Balawi killed seven CIA officers in December of 2009.
  • Fiji to set up new spy agency. The government of Fiji plans to re-establish its intelligence agency, ten years after it was disbanded by Labour Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry. The new organization will be called the National Intelligence Agency of Fiji.
  • MI5 and MI6 must release Guantánamo records, says judge. MI5 and MI6 have been told by a British judge that they cannot use secret evidence to defend themselves from civil damages claims brought by six former detainees in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, including Binyam Mohamed.

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News you may have missed #0251 (analysis edition)

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CIA to continue working with Jordanians, despite suicide attack

GID logo

GID logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The vast majority of intelligence insiders, as well as intelligence observers, seem to agree that the CIA is determined to maintain its close links with Jordanian intelligence services, despite the December 30 suicide bombing that killed and injured 13 CIA personnel. Jordanian doctor Humam Khalil al-Balawi, who detonated a concealed bomb shortly after he was allowed into the US Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, had been recruited as a high-level informant by Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID). The Jordanian agency, which is known for its brutal interrogation tactics, is widely considered America’s most valuable intelligence partner in the Arab world. But the December 30 blunder, which resulted in the CIA’s second highest casualty disaster in its 63-year history, prompted some to question GID’s overall value. Read more of this post

Comment: CIA Deaths a Failure of Intelligence, Not Security

Khalil al-Balawi

Khalil al-Balawi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Early on Thursday, rumors began spreading among intelligence observers that the December 30 suicide blast in Khost, Afghanistan, which killed seven and seriously injured six CIA personnel, went off in the open air, and not inside a gym on the base, as had previously been reported. Soon afterwards, an article written by CIA director Leon Panetta for the Sunday edition of The Washington Post, dated January 10, was published by the paper two days early. The op-ed is an apparent attempt by the CIA leadership to officially get the word out that suicide bomber Humam Khalil al-Balawi “was about to be searched by our security officers –a distance away from other intelligence personnel– when he set off his explosives”, according to Panetta. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0246

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Comment: Is CIA Lying About its Blackwater Contacts?

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Blackwater logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
After CIA director Leon Panetta revealed last summer that private contractor Blackwater was part of a covert CIA hit squad, tasked with summary killings and assassinations of al-Qaeda operatives, the CIA vowed to sever its contacts with the trigger-happy security firm. But did it do so? It doesn’t look like it. Last November, it became known that the company, (recently renamed Xe Services) remains part of a covert CIA program in Pakistan that includes planned assassinations and kidnappings of Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects. More recently, it was revealed that two of the seven Americans who died in the December 30 bomb attack at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, were actually Blackwater employees subcontracted by the CIA.

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