CIA’s Problems

It has now emerged that the suicide bomber who blew up the CIA base in Khost, eastern Afghanistan, last week was Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a 36-year-old Jordanian doctor. The BBC says he was arrested by Jordanian intelligence a year ago and was said to have been ‘recruited’ by the Jordanians and the CIA, who thought they had successfully turned him to act as their agent. The Taliban had earlier claimed that the suicide bomber was one of their own.

Two former US government officials were quoted as saying that al-Balawi lured the CIA officers into a meeting with a promise of new information on al Qaeda’s top leadership. The bomber’s specific mission was said to be tracking Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Seven CIA agents and a Jordanian intelligence officer were killed in the attack, making it the worst against American intelligence officials since the US embassy in Beirut was bombed in 1983.

The CIA base in Khost came with an airfield, reportedly used for drone attacks inside Pakistan.

Khost is the traditional stronghold of Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of America’s favorite mujahideen commanders during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. After the Soviet military withdrawal, Haqqani’s forces besieged Khost for months. The town’s fall in spring 1991 triggered a domino effect that finally brought down Afghanistan’s last Communist leader, Najibullah.

After the collapse of the Communist regime, Haqqani was named justice minister in the first mujahideen government formed in 1992. But he switched to the Taliban just before they seized the capital in September 1996. He helped the Taliban secure control of Nangarhar Province in the same year. At the time, Bin Laden was living as a guest and friend of Haqqani, who apparently was in possession of at least 70 American Stinger missiles. Jalaluddin Haqqani, and his son Sirajuddin, were believed to have fled to the Waziristan tribal area inside Pakistan following the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Kabul in late 2001.