CIA suicide bomber appears on tape with leader of Pakistani Taliban


Hakeemullah Mehsud (left), the Leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi (right), the suicide bomber who carried out the attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan.

The al Qaeda operative who killed seven US CIA operatives and guards, and a Jordanian intelligence official, was on a martyr's videotape with the leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi, a Jordanian Islamist who was thought to have been turned against al Qaeda, appeared on a videotape with Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. On the tape, Balawi said he carried out the suicide attack to avenge the death of Baitullah Mehsud, Hakeemullah's predecessor, who was killed in a US airstrike in South Waziristan on Aug. 5.

"We will never forget the blood of our emir Baitullah Mehsud," Balawi said. "We will always demand revenge for him inside America and outside. It is an obligation of the emigrants who were welcomed by the emir [Baitullah]." The video was played on Al Jazeera and was also uploaded to YouTube sites.

Balawi's appearance with Hakeemullah bolsters the claims made by the Pakistani Taliban, which said it was behind the attack. Qari Hussain Mehsud, a senior deputy to Hakeemullah and an expert in training and plotting suicide attacks, said last week that the Movement of the Taliban carried out the strike against the CIA base at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province, Afghanistan.

A few days after Qari Hussain Mehsud claimed the attack, Mustafa abu Yazid, al Qaeda's leader in Afghanistan, issued a statement saying that Balawi, who is also known as Dr. Abu Dujanah al Khurasani, carried out the attack to avenge the deaths of Abdullah Said al Libi, the leader of the Lashkar al Zil or Shadow Army; Saleh al Somali, al Qaeda's former external operations chief; and Baitullah.

"[This attack was carried out] to avenge our righteous martyrs, as he [Khurasani/Balawi] (may God have mercy on him) wrote in his will: 'To avenge the leader, Amir Baitullah Mehsud, the leaders Abu Saleh al Somali and Abdullah Said al Libi, and their brothers (may God have mercy on them),'" Yazid said in a statement released on the Internet.

Qari Hussain's claim of responsibility for the attack at COP Chapman was dismissed by Western officials. It now seems clear, however, that the attack was a joint operation between the Haqqani Network, which is established in Khost; al Qaeda, which likely recruited Balawi; and the Pakistani Taliban, which provided the logistics and training for Balawi.

"This operation is the perfect example of how the Taliban and al Qaeda cooperate and conduct operations," a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. "We're making a mistake by thinking such clear lines exist between the groups; they work much more closely than is commonly thought."

Balawi apparently lured the CIA operatives by promising to provide intelligence on the location of Ayman al Zawahir, according to reports. CIA officers from Kabul came to Khost to be present at the briefing.

Balawi was driven to Khost by his Jordanian intelligence contact and handler. He detonated the bomb just prior to being searched, The Washington Post reported, which had devastating results.

"Virtually everyone within sight of the suicide bomb died immediately, including the CIA al-Qaeda expert; a 30-year-old CIA analyst; an interpreter and two other CIA officers; the two contract guards; the Jordanian's handler and the car's driver," the The Washington Post reported. "At least six others standing in the carport and nearby were wounded by pellets that had first perforated the vehicle, including the CIA's second-in-command inside Afghanistan, who is now reportedly fighting for his life."



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READER COMMENTS: "CIA suicide bomber appears on tape with leader of Pakistani Taliban"

Posted by Civy at January 9, 2010 6:21 PM ET:

The zeal with which the Taliban and AQ are turning this guy into a rock-star for recruiting purposes says a lot about their level of desperation. Every Tom, Dick and hairy goat herder now wants to be associated with the guy.

Unfortunately, this whole incident says a lot, and none of it good, about how sloppy the CIA was in handling the guy. I hate to say it, but from what is known at this point it looks like good old American arrogance about our military and cultural superiority (undisputed in my book) created an environment that was dismissive of his threat potential. A hard lesson not to be learned twice.

Posted by Civy at January 9, 2010 6:33 PM ET:

...from The Washington Post

"It's not sloppiness," this former official added. "We just don't have time for it. Who wants to be known as the guy who turned away the tip that could have helped us get Osama bin Laden?"

Well, at the moment, the #2 CIA guy in Afghanistan, for one.

The temptation to cut corners is NOT unique to the intelligence business, and it's not even especially dangerous or the intelligence community. Ask the operators at Chernobyl. No matter how much they protest to the contrary, it was very sloppy. The proof is in the outcome.

Posted by T Ruth at January 9, 2010 11:04 PM ET:

civy, that arrogance that you mention, perhaps combined with the naivety coming from an over excitement of hearing what this guy had, and over-trusting the jordanian army officer who thought this guy was in his pocket and was already grateful to balawi for he had already heard the scoop from him in the car ride over to the fatal mtg point.

The jordanian officer (balawi's country-man, not quite, because balawi was a palestinian) i imagine was already counting his brownie points and a likely big dollar bonus so you don't frisk (have frisked) your hen who is laying your golden egg for you....

Poor judgment!

Balawi, as we now know, was playing a serious psychological game and had done his calculations in detail.

If a no-exceptions system had worked, at the first checkpoint, the damage could've been limited.

What i'd like to know is how does the Washington Post know that "He detonated the bomb just prior to being searched, ..." ??

How could ANYONE ever know?

Posted by T Ruth at January 10, 2010 12:49 AM ET:

I take it back now that i've read the whole Post story. I thought the reference was to an earlier Post article of a few days ago by anand gopal.

Still its misleading to say that the bomber pulled the trigger shortly before a search. Maybe during, or at the beginning, of the search is more accurate.

Amen!

Posted by M. Muthuswamy at January 10, 2010 12:52 AM ET:

My condolences to the families of the deceased and to their CIA colleagues. This attack and the spate of others call for a rethink.

There is little discussion about the lack of "Grand Strategy" in executing the war on terror (on the part of the U.S.). This deficiency has led to taking tactical and ad hoc measures that have overstretched American forces and have them take undue risks.

Osama bin Laden or Al-Zawahiri are symptoms of the underlying problem - certain attributes of Islam that are spawning terrorism through jihad.

There are ways of identifying these attributes and addressing them, as explained in my recent book.

Posted by Wdames at January 10, 2010 7:54 AM ET:

How long does it take to pat someone down. I just don't understand it. At first I thought it might be a misinformation ploy it was so unbelievalbe. I think the many hits that have recently took place is to get as many known targets as possible before our recent info drys up.

Posted by JD at January 10, 2010 9:14 AM ET:

Bill,

This came to me last night out of the blue. I think we both look at the TTP/HQN/AQ Proper similarly. HQN seemed to sign off on Hakeemullah Mehsud's replacement as leader of the TTP. Hakeemullah is possibly an ad hoc deputy to Siraj Haqqani. We also believe that Siraj has a seat on the AQ leadership circle. Post Baitullah Mehsud, the HQN arguably received the most US ordinance while AQ arguably lost the individuals with the highest value between the two groups. Now, what if AQ and HQN did all the leg work to conduct the FOB Chapman attack, but let Hakeemullah's TTP get the credit in an attempt to shift the US focus for their drone campaign?

Posted by Al at January 10, 2010 12:16 PM ET:

And how his wife brags. Send in someone to get her, too.

Posted by Anonymous at January 10, 2010 4:49 PM ET:

The CIA needs to start recruiting clerical-level intelligence not grunts..it can't be that hard to find disillusioned clerics rotting away in saudi/Egyptian/Libyan prisons...

Posted by jav at January 10, 2010 7:35 PM ET:

jd - that could be true. Makes sense aswell seen at though most drone attacks are in n.waziristan. I personally think all the groups were involved in this one (alqaeda, haq, pk talib, afg talib). That recent vid with hakeemullah mehsud was used most probably because it has a stronger properganda effect (revenge for baitullah) and its more symbolic (you killed our leader - we kill your intelligence experts). And plus, putting a pakistani taliban leader in the lime light boosts popularity, thus increasing recruitment from pakistans 180 (i think) million population

Posted by Gerald at January 10, 2010 8:12 PM ET:

The bottom line is , it was a big psychological boost to Al qaeda and the Taliban. We lost this one.

Posted by DANNY at January 10, 2010 8:40 PM ET:

I can only imagine they make a lot more of these tapes then they release. The guy blows up on accident, or chickens out or worse yet cannot reach his goal and blows up hundreds of innocent Muslims cause he cannot reach his intended target. There has to be trash cans just full of these videos. What a bunch of losers. I pray your evil intentions explode in your faces.

Posted by Minnor at January 10, 2010 11:07 PM ET:

It rather shows utter failure of NATO to secure the borders. Free movement across the border is not acceptable.

Posted by nissonic at January 11, 2010 2:43 AM ET:

The title of the article is very misleading. It seems like it was a CIA bomber not a Taliban bomber targeting the CIA...

Posted by Paul at January 11, 2010 11:35 AM ET:

Not the CIA finest moment & this one added a lot to the resistance cause.

Posted by J House at January 11, 2010 1:09 PM ET:

The President has made it clear 'we are at war with AQ'.
But the Taliban, along with AQ, just conducted another act of war on a cadre of CIA officials.

If we can't even define our enemy, we have no chance in defeating it.

I offer my condolence to the families of the slain CIA officers and their colleagues..they are doing the hard work, in the shadows.

However, Americans should point out the grave lapses that led to the attack, as well as the failure of the USIC to uncover the failed Detroit attack and the terrorist attack within our military ranks (Hasan).

Poor opsec led to the mass attack at Chapman...the CI should have been thoroughly searched before they ever entered the base...period.TRUST, BUT VERIFY.
Personnel were under the mistaken impression they were safe within the confines of the base and were likely wearing no body armor, hence the high causalties

The Director, Panetta, sugar-coated the lapses which led to the most devastating attack on CIA personnel in 25+ yrs in his WaPo opinion piece.
Yes Mr. Panetta, Americans fully understand we will lose CIA personnel in the Long War...but this was a tactical victory handed to the Taliban and AQ and it definitely could have been prevented.

It should be standard procedure to have the CI strip and change into a set of clothes provided by base security, outside the wire...PERIOD.

The President AND Director of CIA are doing a disservice to the country by not holding individuals to account for these mistakes, but instead, blame 'the system'.