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January 26, 2010

Carve stars for them

By Spear's

The tragedy that occurred on 30 December in Afghanistan, represents one of the greatest setbacks ever sustained by the CIA.

The tragedy that occurred on 30 December in Khost, in eastern Afghanistan, represents one of the greatest setbacks ever sustained by the CIA. Seven CIA officers, including the Chief of Base, reportedly the mother of three children, were killed together with a Jordanian case officer, and a further six wounded by a suicide bomber, a Jordanian physician, who detonated a explosive vest during a briefing held in the gym at Base Chapman.

She had fourteen years’ experience in Afghanistan, and was a veteran of ALEC Station, the unit created by Michael Scheuer before September 2001 to monitor Osama bin Laden. Thus far the only victim identified by name is 37 year-old father of three, Harold Brown, an officer working under State Department cover.

The Jordanian doctor responsible for this atrocity was Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a man allegedly recommended by the Jordanian intelligence service who was offering access information about Al-Qaida. He was attending a meeting with his case officer, and ihe fact that this rendezvous took place in a CIA base, and not a neutral safehouse, highlights a growing trend in tradecraft where CIA personnel judge such encounter to be too dangerous to conduct outside secure premises that, inevitably, lose their anonymity.

According to a ‘martyrdom’ video recorded shortly before the atrocity, al-Badawi declared his intention to revenge the recent death of a Taliban leader in Pakistan.

The CIA base’s function was to identify terrorist targets in the province, concentrating on the two principal local warlords, Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin. That the Jordanian bomber could have entered the compound, supposedly guarded by Afghan contractors, is extraordinary, and doubtless will prompt a review of local security procedures. There will also be a CIA investigation into the circumstances in which the Jordanian doctor was recruited, and then allowed into the Base Chapman briefing.

The loss of seven CIA paramilitaries and case officers is the largest loss in any single incident in the Agency’s history, and the names will be entered into the book of remembrance, accompanied by stars etched into the wall at the main building’s entrance.

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