The leader of the Haqqani Network claimed that the US air campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda has been seriously impacted after a suicide attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan at the close of 2009.
Siraj Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup that operates in eastern Afghanistan, claimed that “the accurate drone-strike operations against the mujahideen decreased 90 percent” during an interview with Abu Dujanah al Sanaani for the newly established Al Balagh Media Center. A translation of Siraj’s interview was provided by Flashpoint Partners.
Siraj described the Jordanian al Qaeda operative and double agent who killed seven CIA personnel and his Jordanian intelligence handler at Combat Outpost Chapman in Afghanistan’s Khost province on Dec. 30 as a “big hero.” The suicide bomber lured CIA officials to a meeting by claiming to have information that would lead to Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command.
“[S]ome of the most senior officials in the American intelligence, the CIA – the best among the intelligence groups – were killed” in the suicide attack, Siraj said. “And those killed in the American intelligence are the group responsible for chasing after the mujahideen in the region, and in particular the mujahideen leaders, and they worked for year in this field to the extent that they had influence in some of the neighboring countries, including Iraq, and after the demise of this group the backbone of the enemy broke and the accurate drone-strike operations against the mujahideen decreased 90 percent…”
Siraj said the CIA “created error in using spies,” meaning that its attempt to turn Jordanian jihadi Abu Dujanah al Khurasani, who is also known as Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi, into a double agent to be used to attack al Qaeda, had failed. Khurasani was detained by Jordanian intelligence for running an online jihadi forum, and sent to Afghanistan to penetrate the inner circles of al Qaeda’s leadership. But instead al Qaeda used Khurasani to strike back at the CIA.
Siraj also said that the suicide attack not only killed senior, experienced CIA officials, but the event created a “loss of trust in spies as their efficiency shortened due to security problems in the region.”
While Siraj’s claims may be dismissed as Taliban propaganda, at look at the high value targets killed in the months before and after the suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman lend some weight to his words. A comparison of the high value targets killed between August and December 2009 and those killed between January and mid-April 2010 shows a marked decrease in the killing of leaders and operatives of the highest importance.
From Aug. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2009, the US carried out 22 airstrikes inside Pakistan. During this time period, eight high value targets were killed. Of those eight high value targets killed, seven were top-tier al Qaeda, Taliban, or allied movement leaders. Those leaders are: Baitullah Mehsud, the overall leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan; Saleh al Somali, the leader of al Qaeda’s external network; Abdullah Said al Libi, the top commander of the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s Shadow Army; Mustafa al Jaziri, a senior Shadow Army military commander who sat on al Qaeda’s military shura; Zuhaib al Zahib, a senior Shadow Army military commander; Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; and Najmuddin Jalolov, the leader of the Islamic Jihad Group, a breakaway faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
From Jan. 1, 2010 to April 15, 2010, the US has carried out 28 airstrikes in Pakistan. This is six more strikes over a period that is six week shorter. Eight high value targets were killed during this time period. Yet only two of the high value targets killed can be considered top-tier leaders: Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, a senior operative in al Qaeda’s external operations network who was involved in the suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman; and Qari Mohammad Zafar, a leader of the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam wanted by the US for attacking the US Consulate in Karachi in 2006.
Granted, the air campaign in Pakistan is not only aimed at killing top al Qaeda, Taliban, and allied movement leaders. The strikes also focus on hitting al Qaeda external operations network and groups based in Pakistan that are conducting attacks inside Afghanistan. These targets are also important but receive far less attention than the top terrorist leaders.
It cannot be said with certainty that the suicide attack on the CIA base at the end of the year has caused a significant decrease in the quality of high value targets killed in the Predator and Reaper strikes. Other factors may contribute to this drop-off: a switch from targeting high value targets to the support networks, al Qaeda and Taliban purges of suspected spies, a decrease in quality of intelligence from the region, and better enemy operational security. But the data does support the contention that there has been a significant decrease in top Taliban and al Qaeda leaders killed since the beginning of 2010.
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