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

News you may have missed #560 (new books edition)

Khalil al-Balawi

Khalil al-Balawi

►►New book on CIA’s Khost bomb disaster. Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick has authored a new book, examining the December 31, 2009, killing of seven CIA operatives by Jordanian doctor Humam Khalil al-Balawi in Khost, Afghanistan. In the book, entitled The Triple Agent, Warrick quotes several “anonymous” sources from within CIA and Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID), which was involved in running al-Balawi. Aside from blaming GID, Warrick says the CIA’s Amman station chief was partly responsible for the botched operation.
►►Hollywood producer was Mossad spy, says new book. The book Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan, says that Milchan was a full-fledged operative for Israel’s now-defunct intelligence agency, Lakam. The agency, which was also known as Israel’s Bureau of Scientific Relations, collected scientific and technical intelligence abroad. It was disbanded in 1986 following the arrest of US Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard for engaging in espionage on behalf of Israel. The book’s authors, Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman, argue that Milchan, who produced such movies as Love and Other Drugs and Knight and Day, worked for Israeli intelligence by supervising government-backed accounts and front companies that financed “the special needs of the entirety of Israel’s intelligence operations outside the country”.
►►Book alleges US-Russian spy swap deal. In 2010 the CIA considered a swap deal that would have delivered to Moscow two Americans currently imprisoned in the US for spying for Russia. This information is included Read more of this post

News you may have missed #463

  • Iranian spy minister admits hacking emails. Iran’s Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi has publicly admitted that the Iranian government has hacked into the emails of Iranian opposition members. He claimed the hacking, conducted by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, revealed messages exchanged between “foreigners and their elements inside Iran”.
  • Details on CIA officer killed in Afghanistan. An interesting article in The Washingtonian offers an interesting background story on Jennifer Matthews, a CIA officer who was killed nearly a year ago in Afghanistan in a suicide bombing by Taliban double-agent Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi.
  • China jails South Korean alleged spy. China is getting tougher with South Korean spies caught on Chinese soil collecting intelligence on North Korea, and has jailed one of them for more than a year, despite pleas from Seoul, according to news reports.

News you may have missed #441

  • US officials admit terrorist suspect was DEA informant. US government officials have told The Washington Post what the world’s media has been saying for almost a year, namely that Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, who was arrested by the FBI in October for plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper, was working as a Drug Enforcement Administration informant while training with Islamist insurgents in Pakistan.
  • Ex-CIA officer decries Israeli policies. Philip Giraldi, a former counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer at the CIA, has said in an interview that Israel’s policies in Palestine “are manifestly evil”.
  • Bomber who killed seven at CIA base was not vetted. Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian al-Qaeda sympathiser who killed himself and seven CIA agents at a remote base in eastern Afghanistan in January had not been properly vetted, the CIA has said.

News you may have missed #316

  • News videos on UK expulsion of Israeli ‘diplomat’. Commendable video-based amalgamation by Newsy.com of worldwide media comments on the recent expulsion of an Israeli intelligence officer by the British government. The expulsion was in response to the forging of British passports, employed by the Mossad in the killing of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last January.
  • How Khost suicide bomber lured CIA agents to their deaths. According to the CIA’s internal investigation of the killing of seven CIA officers by Humam al-Balawi, in Khost, Afghanistan, last December, the fatal explosion happened as the CIA officers had gathered around Balawi to present him with a cake as a present for his birthday.

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News you may have missed #0277

  • Western officials say a CIA air strike has killed Hakimullah Mehsud. Mehsud was the leader of the largest faction of the Pakistani Taliban, and one of the handlers of Humam Khalil al-Balawi, the Jordanian who killed seven CIA officers last December in Khost, Afghanistan. Mehsud took over the leadership of the Pakistan Taliban last August, after another CIA air strike killed his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud (no relation).
  • US citizen requests North Korea asylum. An unidentified 28-year-old American man who crossed into North Korea from China has allegedly sought asylum because he did not “want to become a cannon fodder in the capitalist military”. He apparently told North Korean officials that he “wants to serve in the North Korean military” instead.

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News you may have missed #0259

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Jordanian opposition seeks to end Jordan’s CIA links

Khalil al-Balawi

Khalil al-Balawi

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
Earlier this month we reported on the excellent analysis by Jordanian blogger Naseem Tarawnah about the view from Jordan on the December 30 suicide bombing in Afghanistan. He suggested that the immediate impact of the bombing, which killed at least seven CIA agents and a senior Jordanian intelligence official, was the revelation of Jordan’s covert CIA connection. The latter, “while relatively well-known before, has now been put out in the public sphere for all to see –especially the Arab street”, he wrote. This is precisely what appears to be happening. The Jordanian government is coming under pressure by opposition groups to end its cooperation with American military and intelligence services operating in Arab and Muslim lands. Read more of this post

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 (CIA bombing edition)

  • Analysis: Strike on CIA base tests US assessment of al-Qaeda. The militant group appears to have achieved a new level of sophistication and may not be as weakened as US officials had thought.
  • Photo of CIA suicide bomber published. Qatar-based Arabic news network Al Jazeera has published a photograph of Jordanian doctor Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, 36, who last month killed at least 7 CIA agents in Khost, Afghanistan.
  • Al-Qaida CIA bomber was furious over Gaza war. Suicide bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi was furious over Israel’s Gaza offensive, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Thursday, citing the man’s sister.
  • Analysis: The view from Jordan on CIA’s deaths in Khost. For Jordan, far more embarrassing than its role in the Khost suicide bombing, is its connection with the CIA, which while relatively well-known before, has now been put out in the public sphere for all to see –especially the Arab street.
  • London Arabic newspaper visits home of CIA bomber. The Jordanian authorities have imposed a security cordon around al-Balawi’s family home, which is located in the residential al-Nuzha district, close to the Jabal al-Hussein Palestinian refugee camp in the Jordanian capital of Amman. But a London-based Arabic-language newspaper correspondent managed to visit the location and speak with the bomber’s family members and neighbors.

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News you may have missed #0245 (CIA edition)

  • CIA saw Jordanian double spy as valuable asset. Before detonating a suicide bomb in Afghanistan last week, Jordanian double spy (or was he?) Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi was considered by US spy agencies “the most promising informant in years about the whereabouts of Al Qaeda’s top leaders”.
  • CIA going through worst spell since 9/11. America’s most recognizable intelligence agency is currently going through its worst time since 9/11, what with Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and the loss of at least seven of its agents in Khost, Afghanistan.
  • US intel in Afghanistan is broken, irrelevant, says US insider. A new report (.pdf) by US Major General Michael Flynn, the top intelligence aide to International Security Assistance Force Commander General Stanley McChrystal, says the US intelligence community “is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy” in Afghanistan. The report recommends “[s]weeping changes to the way the intelligence community thinks about itself, from a focus on the enemy to a focus on the people of Afghanistan”.

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Breaking news: CIA officers were killed by Jordanian double spy

Forward Operating Base Chapman

Chapman FOB

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Ever since I posted “The Meaning of the Suicide Attack on the CIA” on this blog, I have been telling reporters who contacted me that the attack at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Chapman was probably carried out by a double agent. I dismissed claims on other websites that the bomber had been just a “potential recruit” who was “not required to go through full security checks [at Chapman FOB] in order to help gain [his] trust”. Instead, as I wrote on Saturday, I suggested that “the bomber was able to evade safety search standards [at the US base] by relying on a long-term informant-handler relationship with CIA personnel stationed at the outpost. This would lead to the strong possibility that the informant-turned-bomber had been groomed as a double agent from the very start by local Taliban operatives”. A news report has just appeared on NBC, which appears to confirm just that: namely that the suicide bomber had been “an al-Qaeda double agent” who was “arrested by Jordanian intelligence more than a year ago”, and turned over to the Americans by his Jordanian handlers, who believed he “had been successfully reformed”. Read more of this post

Analysis: The Meaning of the Suicide Attack on the CIA

Forward Operating Base Chapman

Chapman FOB

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org |
The recent deaths of seven and the serious injury of another six CIA personnel in Afghanistan’s Khost province has undoubtedly shocked an Agency not used to mass casualties. But what exactly is the significance of Wednesday’s suicide attack at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Chapman, and how will it affect the US military and intelligence presence at the Afghan-Pakistani border? Given that the CIA team at Chapman FOB could not have consisted of more than 15 to 20 agents, it would be logical to conclude that the attack virtually decimated the CIA presence in Khost. But the impact of this development on US operations in Afghanistan will be minimal, in contrast to operations inside Pakistan, which constituted the primary objective of the CIA team at Chapman FOB. Read article →