Was the Afghan or Pakistani Taliban behind the CIA suicide attack?

Yesterday, Qari Hussain Mehsud, the notorious mastermind of suicide attacks in Pakistan, took credit for the suicide attack that hit the CIA base in Khost province, Afghanistan. Today, ABC News reported that the person who carried out the attack was an informant from North Waziristan, Pakistan:

The informant was a Pakistani and a member of the Wazir tribe from the Pakistani tribal area North Waziristan, according to the same source. The base security director, an Afghan named Arghawan, would pick up the informant at the Ghulam Khan border crossing and drive him about two hours into Forward Operating Base Chapman, from where the CIA operates.

Because he was with Arghawan, the informant was not searched, the source says. Arghawan also died in the attack.

The informant reportedly provided solid intel on al Qaeda and Taliban targets in the past, and was turned by the Taliban, according to ABC News.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed a “senior commander connected to the Afghan Taliban and involved with the attack against the CIA” who claimed the suicide attack was carried out in retaliation for US airstrikes in Khost:

“We attacked this base because the team there was organizing drone strikes in Loya Paktia and surrounding area,” the commander said, referring to the area around Khost, the city where the U.S. facility was attacked. The commander, a prominent member of the Afghan insurgency, spoke on the condition of anonymity… “We attacked on that particular day because we knew the woman who was leading the team” was there, the commander said.

The Wall Street Journal follows up with this piece of information that highlights the lack of understanding of the nature of the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan:

Both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for attacks in the past that Western officials have later rejected.

Why are Western officials so quick to dismiss the involvement of the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan? The Afghan Taliban went to Pakistan to regroup after US troops ousted the Taliban from power in 2001, after all.

It is very, very likely that the Taliban commander contacted by the The Wall Street Journal was a member of the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani Network operates on both sides of the border; its base and main madrassa are just outside of Miramshah in North Waziristan. The Haqqani Network’s fiefdom in Afghanistan is the provinces of Khost, Paktika, and Paktia, and it stretches into neighboring provinces. Siraj Haqqani sits on al Qaeda’s shura majlis, intelligence officials tell me. The Haqqanis oversee Hakeemullah Mehsud, Mullah Nazir, and Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the main Taliban commanders in Waziristan.

So what are the Haqqanis? Pakistani Taliban? Afghan Taliban? Why isn’t it possible that Qari Hussain, a deputy to Hakeemullah, who is a deputy to Siraj Haqqani, had a hand in the suicide attack against the CIA? Is Siraj Haqqani a member of al Qaeda?

Take Haji Omar Khan, who is thought to have been killed in the New Year’s Eve strike in North Waziristan. He was born in South Waziristan, waged jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and served as a deputy in Mullah Omar’s government in Afghanistan. He moved back to his home town in South Waziristan in 2001 after the US invasion. Haji Omar was one of those who signed the peace deals with the Pakistani Army in 2005 and 2006. Is Haji Omar a Pakistani Taliban, or an Afghan Taliban?

“Pakistani Taliban” leaders Hafiz Gul Bahadar, Mullah Nazir, Hakeemullah Mehsud, Waliur Rehman Mehsud, Qari Hussain Mehsud, Mullah Fazlulluh, Faqir Mohammed, Omar Khalid, and a host of others recognize Mullah Omar as the “leader of the faithful” and support the restoration of the Afghan Taliban to power. Are they “Afghan Taliban”?

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • T Ruth says:

    You’re quick to show up the WSJ’s ignorance Bill.
    Naive is all i can say–they don’t understand that there are wheels within wheels within wheels in this part of the world. The minimum research they could do is to read wikipedia:
    “Haqqani and his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, are believed to be commanders of the Taliban mujahideen forces in the Pakistan agency of Waziristan.”
    This link is meant only for Mr Gopal, the writer of the wsj article. Not for readers here already more finely-tuned.
    Btw a day before the wsj was reporting that the Pak Taliban was taking credit and then spend the rest of the verbose article talking about HAQ as a “partner” of Taliban as if they are not Taliban themself.
    To cap it, that article says
    ” He detonated his charge shortly before being searched, blowing himself up, killing seven and wounding six.”
    The only place where i’ve read that probably inaccurate assertion.

  • T Ruth says:

    Bill the Afghan surge gave us some idea of the direction/strategy in Afghanistan.
    Pakistan was for all practical purposes not addressed in that announcement. Although the fact that Pakistan was host state to AQ was acknowledged.
    At that time the President was being accused of dithering.
    With still no clarity on how the US is going to disrupt, dismantle, destroy AQ INSIDE Pakistan, don’t you think we’ve gone from dithering to withering?
    Whats the real thinking in the Administration on how to address this GLARING GAP?
    The fact that the President can take off for a 10-day vacation (none of my business, i’m not American) gives an impression that he already knows exactly how he’s going to do the 3D on AQ. On the other hand…..
    Whatever, xmas day and new years eve 2009 has certainly given him something to think about.

  • steve m says:

    i read something today that said the bomber was a jordanian doctor. any more info on this?

  • kp says:

    More on the bomber — a Jordaian double who was “turned” (I think not)
    So I suspect neither of the “Talibans” planned this but someone gave him a bomb at his request I suspect. He played turned and even gave them.
    BTW, this shows a big failure of OPSEC. He came past three checkpoints in FOB Chapman without being searched and he’d got cIA from Kabul down there. I guess he took out a whole meeting. Basic layered security: Everyone gets searched. Everytime. No matter how much you trust them. Period. They’re CIA you’d have think they knew that (a) compartmentalized security works (b) AQ would love to kill them.
    Unlike others who think this is a cleverly run AQ mission I think it was smart thinking (in an AQ sense) from a captured guy to take out HVTs.


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