Al Qaeda double agent: Role in CIA attack points to group's reach

The suicide bomber who killed seven CIA agents last week in Afghanistan was a double agent for Al Qaeda and was recruited by Jordan's intelligence as a spy, according to reports. A new report from a US think tank offers a harsh assessment of CIA intelligence in Afghanistan.

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The suicide bomber who killed seven CIA agents and a Jordanian spy in Afghanistan Dec. 30 was an Al Qaeda double agent, multiple media outlets reported Tuesday, quoting American intelligence officers. News of the bomber’s identity has raised concerns about the risk of infiltration of US facilities and intelligence setups. The revelation comes at the same time as a US think tank report that critiques the CIA’s intelligence work in Afghanistan, describing its officials as “clueless.”

According to the BBC, the bomber was a doctor recruited by Jordanian intelligence and taken to Afghanistan to track down Al Qaeda leaders.

US intelligence officials add that al-Balawi specially arranged the meeting at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost last week, where he said he would share information about Zawahiri. When questioned, he blew himself up.

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Al-Balawi was not thoroughly searched on entering Chapman because he was believed to be a “cooperative intelligence informant,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal adds that senior US military officials believe that al-Balawi was working in conjunction with the Haqqani network, an Al Qaeda-linked militant outfit based in northwest Pakistan that has launched many attacks against coalition forces inside Khost.

The fact that al-Balawi was a double agent is being seen as evidence of Al Qaeda’s ability to strike back against the US, reports The New York Times.

The Times also reports that news about the double agent could jeopardize relations between the CIA and the Jordanian spy service that vouched for al-Balawi.

The Guardian reports that the CIA’s account of the attack contradicts a statement released by the Taliban soon after the blast, in which they claimed the bomber was a terrorist sympathizer in the Afghan National Army.

The revelation about the Chapman bomber’s identity comes at the same time as a stinging report on the CIA’s role in the eight-year-long war in Afghanistan, issued by the Center for New American Security. According to the Times of London, the report blames the intelligence apparatus for focusing on intelligence-gathering while remaining out of touch with the environment in which they have to operate.

Writing in The Washington Post, Walter Pincus also points out that al-Balawi’s attack highlights the risk of infiltration of US facilities, military, and intelligence operations in Afghanistan. Quoting blogger "JD," who is in the military who previously analyzed insider attacks in Iraq, Pincus calls for more security measures for US soldiers and intelligence officials. Those include designating areas on joint-use bases exclusively for US forces, vetting new recruits, and maintaining databases on contract security guards.

In September last year, the Los Angeles Times reported on an ‘intelligence surge’ in Afghanistan, meant to coincide with US military expansion in the region.

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See also: 

In Yemen, locals worry about Obama policy on Al Qaeda

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US reopens embassy in Yemen

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Iran uses Internet as tool against protesters

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