US think-tank hints at ISI hand in CIA attack

The Hindu

The suicide strike on the key U.S. intelligence base in Afghanistan had hallmarks of an operation carried out by a national intelligence service, a leading U.S. think-tank has said, apparently hinting that it could be the handiwork of Pakistan’s ISI or its rogue elements.

“The hit was by all account a masterful piece of trade craft beyond the known abilities of a group like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,” U.S. think-tank Stratfors said.

“The Jordanians penetration of the CIA was less like the product of an insurgency than an operation carried out by a national intelligence service. And this is the most troubling aspect for the U.S.,” the think tank said.

The speculation about a possible ISI hand in the suicide attack is being traced back to U.S. and Afghan government sources who said in the analysis of explosives used, it was found they were of standard military grade which points to the ISI.

Stratfors deduction comes even as al-Jazeera TV said the Jordanian bomber Khali Abu Mulal al-Balawi was brought to the U.S. base in Khost in eastern Afghanistan by car from across the border in Pakistan.

The agency which was one of the TV channels which beamed a footage of al-Balawi alongside Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud said the video showed “there was clearly a link between Pakistani Taliban headed by Hakimullah Mehsud and some of the al-Qaeda elements operating in Pakistan.

The Arab TV channel said, this video was expected and “everybody in the tribal border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan was told al-Balawi had recored a message before he went to his mission to blow the American Chapman base.” The channel said that the video would provide the Afghan government “more ammunition” with which to criticise their counterparts in Pakistan. “This is definitely something that is going to put more pressure on the Pakistanis in the future and will definitely make the Afghans and the Americans change their strategy as far as dealing with eastern Afghanistan.”

Stratfors, in an in depth analysis of the hit on the CIA base, said as the Jordanian bomber exited the vehicle on December 30, the security guards at the Chapman base noticed he was behaving strangely. As the guards moved towards al-Balawi screaming for him to take his hands out of his pocket, the Jordanian instead of complying detonated the suicide device he was wearing.

The explosion, Stratfors said killed the bomber, three security contractors, four CIA officers and the Jordanian intelligence official who was his handler. But the vehicle shielded other CIA officers at the scene from the blast. The CIA officers killed included the chief of base at Khost and an analyst, who was the agency’s foremost expert on al-Qaeda.

“The U.S. cannot hope to reach a satisfactory solution in Afghanistan unless it can win the intelligence war. But the damage done to CIA in this attack cannot be overestimated. At least one of the agency’s top analysts was killed. In an intelligence war, this is equivalent to a sinking of an aircraft carrier in a naval war,” Stratfors said.