Tuesday, January 05, 2010

obama's serial catastrophes in afghanistan


JuanCole | on Thursday, all hell broke loose when a high-level Pashtun asset who had been informing to the CIA on the location of important al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives detonated a vest bomb at FOB Chapman in Khost province, a CIA forward base. The attacker killed 7 field officers and one Jordanian intelligence operative detailed to the base. Those experienced field officers were on the front lines in the fight against al-Qaeda and their loss is a big blow to counter-terrorism. It is true that they had been drawn in to a campaign of assassination, but it is the president who gave them that task--unwisely, in my view.

The use of a double agent not only to misinform but actually to kill the most experienced counter-terrorism officers in the region showed the sophistication of tactical thinking in the Afghan insurgency.

The CIA's dependence on a double agent who finally openly betrayed them raises troubling questions about US strategy and tactics in the region. Such informants essentially direct CIA drone missile strikes.

You could imagine Siraj Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani Network in Khost and over the border in Pakistan's North Waziristan, inserting such a double agent into FOB Chapman and then using the CIA. For instance, what if a middling member of the Haqqani network launched a challenge to Siraj's leadership and that of his ailing father, Jalaluddin (an old-time ally of Reagan who was warmly greeted in the White House in the 1980s)? Wouldn't it be easy enough just to have the double agent tell the CIA that the challenger is a really bad guy in cahoots with al-Qaeda? Boom. Drone strike kills Taliban leaders in North Waziristan. In this way, Siraj could have used the US to eliminate rivals and become more and more powerful. And how many double agents have given up a few Arab jihadis who had fallen out with the Haqqanis, but then deliberately followed this up with bad intel on some innocent village, making the name of the US mud among the Pashtuns?

The drone strikes shouldn't be run by the CIA, and probably shouldn't be run at all. It could well be that savvy old-time Mujahidin trained in CIA tradecraft in the 1980s are having our young wet behind the ears field officers for lunch.

In short, is the bombing at FOB Chapman the tip of an iceberg of misinformation, on which the Titanic of Obama's AfPak policy could well founder?

Fist tap my man Rembom for continuing laser-like focus.

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