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Attack on CIA base in Afghanistan may have had inside help

By Daniel Tencer
Friday, January 1, 2010 15:14 EDT
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An historic blow against CIA — Intel official promises revenge on Taliban — Two of the dead were Blackwater employees

The suicide bombing Wednesday that took the lives of seven CIA officers and contractors in Afghanistan may have had help from an informant close to the spy agency, and may have been carried out on behalf of a Taliban warlord family that was once an ally of the CIA, news reports say.

Citing an unnamed “Western official,” the Wall Street Journal reported that “an Afghan informant with the agency” may have helped the suicide bomber carry explosives past layers of security at the base.

The allegation echoes what the Taliban themselves now say about the attack. Having taken credit for it, the Taliban said they “used a turncoat CIA operative to carry out” the bombing, the Associated Press reports. The militant group reportedly said the attack was revenge for the death of a high-ranking Taliban leader in a recent US airstrike.

The unnamed “Western official” appeared to corroborate a report at the Washington Post that the CIA facility at Forward Operating Base Chapman had been the command center for the airstrikes the US has been launching into Pakistan in recent months. The official said that one of the principal targets of those strikes was Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, head of a Pakistani branch of the Taliban who was an ally of the CIA during the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, according to a report at the New York Daily News.

The Daily News reported:

Despite aligning with the CIA as a mujahedeen leader to fight the Soviets, Haqqani refused its overtures after 9/11 and sided with his old friend Bin Laden, whom he has sheltered on both sides of the Afganistan-Pakistan border.

Haqqani’s son Siraj, the Afghan Taliban’s top field commander, introduced suicide bombs as weapons in this war.

The dangerous mission of these CIA paramilitaries, case officers and analysts was to hunt high-value targets from Al Qaeda and the local Haqqani Network.

It’s that work that set the camp’s fate for what has become a blood feud between the spy agency and the Haqqani family.

If the allegation that the suicide bomber had inside help is true, “it suggests insurgents had turned the tables on the CIA and been able to place their own agents close to the facility the CIA used to cultivate informants,” the WSJ stated.

But an unnamed source told the Associated Press that the suicide bomber had been invited on to the base because officials were courting him as a possible informant for US forces, and had not been searched when he arrived. If that is the case, it weakens the argument that the bomber would have needed inside help to infiltrate the CIA base.

CIA WANTS REVENGE

An unnamed “intelligence official” told CNN that the CIA will take revenge on the attack.

“This attack will be avenged through successful, aggressive counterterrorism operations,” the intelligence official vowed.

Former CIA official Robert Richer called it “the greatest loss of life for the Central Intelligence Agency since the Beirut Embassy bombing” in 1983, which killed eight agents.

CNN also reported that two of the CIA-linked staffers who died in the attack were employees of Xe Services, the company formerly known as Blackwater. Recent news reports indicate that Blackwater is playing a central role in the US’s military operations inside Pakistan.

Wednesday’s attack against the CIA is of historic proportions. As the CIA’s Richer noted, it’s the highest death toll for the agency since the 1983 Beirut bombing of a US Marines barracks.

While more than 500 US and coalition forces have died in Afghanistan this year, Wednesday’s suicide attack shows a new level of sophistication for the Taliban who appear to have infiltrated the very agency in charge of finding them.

“This attack is something that will never be forgotten in Langley, Virginia,” said Jack Rice, a former CIA officer in Afghanistan and talk-show host. “The impact can be huge, not just in terms of the capabilities of these particular people, but in the relationships that they themselves have built. … You can’t simply go pick up five or 10 more of these guys. They may be the best guys in the world at what they do and they’re gone.”

And the location targeted by the Taliban in the attack is itself loaded with symbolic meaning for the US’s eight-year-long struggle to bring stability to the central Asian country. As James Gordon Meek notes at the Daily News, Forward Operating Base Chapman used to be a Soviet airfield, before the Soviet Union was forced out of the country after nearly a decade of war.

With Agence France-Presse

 
 
 
 
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