Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Last Week's Suicide Bomb Attack Against CIA In Afghanistan Gets Even More Ominous

The suicide bombing at CIA camp in Afghanistan on 31 December killed seven of our intelligence operatives, a Jordian intelligence official who was also a member of the royal family, and injured several others. The CIA officers killed were very experienced officers whose loss, tragic in human terms, is also a severe blow to our intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

We now know that the suicide bomber, Humam Khalil Mohammed, aka Abu Dujanah al-Khorasani, was a physician, a prolific and vitriolic jihadi cyber activist, and a double agent, apparently for the Taliban. He made a "martyrdom video" in the month prior to his death:

There is also a disturbing report suggesting that elements of Pakistan's Intelligence Service, ISI, may have had a hand in this mass murder:

Early evidence in the December 30 bombing that killed seven CIA agents suggests a link to Pakistan, two senior Afghan sources, including an official at their spy agency, told The Daily Beast. The pair said that U.S. has already taken a chemical fingerprint of the bomb used by a Jordanian double agent in the attack, and that it matches an explosive type used by their Pakistan equivalents, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.

If there is ISI involvement, then it compounds the issues raised by this bombing significantly.

Nibras Kazimi at Talisman Gate explains how this will reverberate through the jihadi community:

[Khorasani] is someone that many jihad-watchers have followed over the years . . .

If all the facts here are true, then this is huge. Huge. This story's immediate effect is to give the jihadists a massive morale boost. They will mythologize this story into a recruiting tool that encourages more and more young men who sympathize with the jihadists to surmount their instinctual fear of the nebulous intelligence services of the Middle East, and to challenge the autocracies that supposedly keep a lid on jihadism. Khorasani has left a lot of hero-worship material, much of it very smart at manipulating emotions. Now, he himself is the hero in the eyes of jihadist wanna-bes. Many will seek to emulate him, or even outdo him. . . .

This also raises a host of issues regarding security, field craft, and counterintelligence. Anyone can be fooled, but for six senior agents all to be milling about within the kill radius of a suicide bomb before Khorasani was searched is simply inexplicable. Leon Panetta claims that Khorsani was about to be searched when the bomb was set off, as if that somehow is an explanation for six deaths. It actually makes their failure to observe even basic common sense security procedures all that more blatant.

Dave In Boca discusses several of these issues in a very good post and I highly recommend you read it. He also adds this bon mot:

Robert Baer just came back from a visit to Kabul and environs and found that only two CIA officers spoke a local language, Dari, while NONE speaks or understands Pushtun, the language [that] most of the Al Qaeda Pathan in Afghanistan and their Taliban Punjabi brothers in Pakistan and Baluchi Taliban in Quetta converse in.

We are nine years into the war in Afghanistan. If this report is true, then there are more sucking chest wounds in our intelligence wing than merely security and counterintelligence. Indeed, I find this as breathtaking in its implications as is the fact that a suicide bomber was able to kill six senior CIA agents with a single suicide bomb. It means that nine years in, we essentially have an intelligence presence in Afghanistan - now America's main war effort - that is functionally deaf and illiterate. How the hell can the CIA expect to accomplish its intelligence mission without agents in country trained in the primary language spoken in Afghanistan. This isn't the stuff of 007 - its the stuff of a very bad Pink Panther movie. It is so 180 degrees off from what I would expect of a professional intelligence agency that I am near speachless. I am dead serious when I say that, between this failure of basic security procedures and the failure to have Pashtun speakers in a Pashtun speaking country when we are nine years into a war in said Pashtun speaking country, Sylvester Reyes and Leon Panetta should be emasculated and have their testicles hung at the Langley main entrance. This is utterly beyond belief.


Ted Leddy said...


Very interesting, and worrying. If your information about the lack of Pashtun speakers in the CIA is accurate then it is truly stunning. It makes me doubt how successful a counter insurgency strategy could ever be in such a vast and complex country especially when after nine years of combat, members of the intelligence services do not understand the local language. What else do they not undersatnd about the country?

OBloodyHell said...

> This is utterly beyond belief.

Not really, it just says that the CIA is just the same bumbling incompetents now that it was forty years ago.

I think the CIA has always been the Abbot & Costello spy agency, the distraction behind which the NSA actually does the real work. The effectiveness of the NSA is shown in that, despite the fact that they (the NSA) had more employees by far than the CIA, managed to be pretty much off the radar for forty years (ask someone in 1980 what they thought of the NSA. 99% would have asked, "Who?") -- even now, when you say "intelligence", people don't think about them, and I'll bet a lot of people remain largely unaware of the NSA's existence, and most never think to ask what THEY are doing about "problem 'x'".

My money is that the NSA has LOTS of people who speak Pushtun, Dari, and Urdu (all at the same time, even) while the CIA does its "Who's on first?" routine.


It was the NSA, btw, who were behind Project Echelon. And by all means, note how that's fallen off the media's (and governmental) radar after 911.

dave in boca said...

Yes, every CIA thimblewit should be given a copy of The Pathans, 550 BC-1957AD & given a test on the contents. Olaf Caroe was the British Supervisor of the Tribal Areas [like Waziristan] that caused the Brits, and then the Paks, so much trouble. Caroe knew the place inside out, as did T.E. Lawrence, an airman after his Arabian escapades, at the airbase in the middle of W-stan. The Brits were not careless, as a close reading of the on-line version of Caroe linked above demonstrates again and again. A two-year tour in a war zone punctuated by by-home stint as a regional specialist might make the boys/girls at Langley pay more attention.

Or maybe they believe like Obama, that by 2011, the problem will have gone away.

Or like Coakley, running for the Senate in MA, that there are no "terrorists in Afghanistan."

Or Reyes should be put in charge of CIA oversight with Pelosi as his backup---that'd show them nasty Talibunnies! Or sic Barney Fwank on the wicked wabbits!