Evidence of Al Qaeda spy ring in key Afghan roles
US and Afghan forces raided Amniat offices in Khost in March. The ensuing investigation shows key papers are in Al Qaeda hands.
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"Several times we have requested the central government to fire him," says General Sherzai, military commander of Khost during communist times. "As you know, Hazratuddin was a very rich man, and every time he was struck from his job, he would go to Kabul and give some money, and he would be reappointed."Skip to next paragraph
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Asad, an intelligence officer who worked under Hazratuddin, says his boss regularly violated security protocols. "I saw him take two files which had all of the information we had on Al Qaeda and which we shared with the US coalition forces," says Asad, whose name has been changed. "I asked him why he was taking the files and he said, 'These documents are so secret, they'll be safer in my own home.' "
After Hazratuddin's dismissal, soldiers of the Afghan combined forces searched the intelligence chief's offices, Afghan military officials say. The two files were missing. Asad also says he saw Hazratuddin make photocopies of the list of Afghan intelligence officers in Khost. Afghan military and intelligence officials say their sources in Pakistan confirm this list was eventually received by Al Qaeda operatives.
Members of other Afghan intelligence agencies in Khost, such as the paramilitary 25th Land Force, say that Hazratuddin's inner circle included known killers from the Taliban regime. Among the most dangerous was Dr. Khandaan (who has only one name), appointed five months ago by Kabul as Hazratuddin's adviser. Afghan intelligence agents now say that Khandaan was a member of Hizb-I Islami.
Last summer, the Hizb officially announced its alliance with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But Hazratuddin says that he is loyal to the central government - it's his enemies who are linked with Al Qaeda. His list of Al Qaeda supporters is long, including Governor Tanewal, Military commander Habib Noor, and former Afghan minister Shahnawaz Tanai - all of whom, he says, were backed by former communists, Pakistani intelligence agents, and Al Qaeda.
While civil and military officials in Khost say he was the Taliban's intelligence chief, Hazratuddin insists he was merely a businessman in the western city of Herat. He claims that former communists are trying to exact revenge for his activities as an anti-Soviet guerrilla.
Hazratuddin and his enemies agree on one thing, however: All the information from Amniat's offices in Khost is now in Al Qaeda's hands.
"I have proof of who has taken the files to Al Qaeda," he says, sitting in his bedroom at a government guest house in Kabul. "It is those people who work now with the coalition forces. Now the coalition forces have to ask themselves have they ever captured any Al Qaeda on their own? Has the 25th Land Force or the combined forces helped them arrest any Al Qaeda? No, they haven't. They just arrest people for personal revenge."
In Kabul last week, the Karzai government conducted marathon meetings with Governor Tanewal to discuss the security situation in Khost. And in Khost, the US military is reviewing its own security procedures and taking the measure of Hazratuddin's temporary successor, a career military officer named Mohammad Zaman.
US military officials say it's unlikely that security breaches in Afghan intelligence would affect US intelligence gathering abilities.
"We have kept most of our stuff in separate channels from the Afghan intelligence," says King. "Sometimes you share information, sometimes you don't. So it may mean that you lose some of the confirmation ability that we had, but it doesn't necessarily mean that our intelligence grid gets compromised."