Security fears force UN out of Pakistan
Henry and Bert Thornton; 4/1/10; http://www.henrythornton.com/article.asp?article_id=5906; (2 Items)
The United Nations has withdrawn one-third of its staff from Pakistan because of worsening security and increased terrorist attacks. The Wall Street Journal writes Pakistan’s failure to defeat terrorist groups operating within the country and Afghanistan forced the UN to leave.
Suicide bomber strikes at heart of CIA’s Afghan program
The Wall Street Journal; The suicide attack this week on a CIA compound in Afghanistan devastated what has been a hub of counter-terrorism and intelligence operations for the spy agency. The CIA base was at the heart of a covert program overseeing strikes by the agency’s remote-controlled aircraft along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, officials familiar with the installation said. The CIA continued drone strikes yesterday. A security official in Pakistan confirmed that two militants were killed in what was described as a missile attack by a Predator drone in Pakistan’s autonomous North Waziristan region, across the border from Khost.
No Internet Text, The Australia;
Seven Central Intelligence Agency officers and contractors were killed and six more wounded in the suicide bomb attack at Forward Operating Base Chapman, CIA director Leon Panetta said, the second-largest single-day loss for the spy agency in its history.
The number of casualties in Wednesday’s attack was second to those sustained in the Beirut embassy bombing in 1983, which killed eight CIA officers. The Beirut bombing hit the agency’s Middle East group hard, and was one of the key events that drove the creation of the CIA’s Counter-terrorist Centre a few years later. “It will mark this generation the same way Beirut marked mine,” said Ron Marks, a 16-year CIA veteran who left the agency in 1999.Among the casualties was the agency’s base chief, former intelligence officials said. Officials said the chief of the Khost base was a mother of three and a veteran of the agency’s clandestine branch.
There had been only four publicly acknowledged CIA fatalities in Afghanistan prior to this attack.
In recent months, officials told The New York Times, CIA officers at the base had begun an aggressive campaign against a radical group run by Sirajuddin Haqqani, which has claimed responsibility for the deaths of dozens of American troops.
Over the past year, the CIA has built up an archipelago of fire-bases in southern and eastern Afghanistan, moving agency operatives out of the embassy in Kabul and closer to their targets, the newspaper said. US officials told the paper the CIA base had been a focal point for counter-terrorism operations against the Haqqani network, a particularly lethal militant group that operates on both sides of the Afghan border. “Those guys have recently been on a big Haqqani binge,” a Pentagon consultant told the paper. “I would be really shocked if the bombing on Wednesday wasn’t some kind of retaliation.”
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, which was carried out by suicide bomber wearing an Afghan National Army uniform. Some senior officials think the bomber may have been given access to the base because he was believed to be an informant, two former intelligence officials said.
Several former intelligence officials described the attack as “devastating” to the agency. Several of the officers killed had been counter-terrorism operatives since before the September 11 attacks.
The loss of seven officers is significant for a relatively small agency whose workforce is estimated to be 10,000 or more, but it’s all the more damaging because those lost represented so much collective experience. They were “experienced frontline officers and their knowledge and expertise will be sorely missed” and not easily regenerated, said Henry A. Crumpton, who led the CIA campaign in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002.
With CIA officers deployed to the far reaches of Afghanistan and Pakistan for extended periods, he said, the agency had been lucky to have avoided such attacks for as long as it did. It could also sow mistrust between CIA officers and the Afghan operatives with whom they work closely, another former agency officer said. “This is a huge blow to the agency. It’s a close-knit group,” the former officer said. “They’re not going to know who to trust now.”
The base was located in Khost province, a hotbed of militant activity and a stronghold of the Haqqani network, which fought for a decade to wrest the area back from the Russians. The CIA’s Khost base was established in the months after the 9/11 attacks as the US launched its CIA-led offensive against al-Qa’ida and the Taliban in Afghanistan. It began as a makeshift centre for CIA- Afghan operations. By mid- 2002, it had grown into a major counter-terrorism hub for joint operations with CIA, military special operations forces and Afghan allies.
Its primary role has been to run informant networks in Afghanistan and over the border, said one former agency official. “That was one of the bases where they were paying people and running people and sending them into Pakistan,” he said. The CIA’s activities on the base were an open secret locally, he added.
The attack in Afghanistan came during an already difficult week for the CIA, which has taken a beating in Washington, with US President Barack Obama issuing a blunt critique of intelligence failures in advance of the botched Christmas Day terrorist attack.
The brazen assault may prompt a re-examination of how the CIA deploys operatives into dangerous tribal regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and how local employees and other local operatives working with the CIA are vetted.
“Those who fell yesterday were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism,” Mr Panetta said in a message to agency employees. “We owe them our deepest gratitude, and we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives — a safer America.”
US puts Yemen at heart of terror fight
Elizabeth Williamson & Alistair McDonanld; The Wall Street Journal, Agencies, The Australian, No Internet Text; 4/1/10.
The White House has put the Arab state of Yemen at the centre of renewed counterterrorism efforts in the aftermath of the attempted bombing of a US- bound jet, dispatching a top general to the region and embarking on co-operative efforts with Britain.
A senior Obama administration official yesterday said General David Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was in Yemen “as part of our ongoing consultations with, and efforts in support of, Yemen. We have made Yemen a priority over the course of this year, and this is the latest in that effort.” The official called the visit “productive”.
General Petraeus met Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He later briefed Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security John Brennan. Mr Brennan in turn briefed President Barack Obama.
The visit came as Mr Obama yesterday said for the first time that the alleged Christmas Day airline bomber was acting under orders from the al-Qa’ida branch in Yemen, which “trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America”.
The remarks, in Mr Obama’s weekly address, reflected initial reviews of US intelligence that Mr Obama ordered after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, was charged with trying to ignite an explosive device aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit.
Following the comments, Britain yesterday said it would co-fund with Washington a special counter-terrorism police unit in Yemen, underscoring those nations’ increasing focus on the Middle Eastern country. The Yemeni branch of al-Qa’ida has claimed responsibility for the attempted attack.
A senior US administration official said the British statement “refers to programs already in place wherein US and UK provide assistance to Yemeni police for counter-terrorism purposes”. The US plans to increase its counter-terrorism support to Yemen, from $US67 million ($74.6m) last year to as much as $US190m this year.
In his weekly address yesterday, Mr Obama made clear Yemen would be a key front in the administration’s counterterrorism agenda, and sought the help of US allies. “As President, I’ve made it a priority to strengthen our partnership with the Yemeni government — training and equipping their security forces, sharing intelligence and working with them to strike al-Qa’ida terrorists,” Mr Obama said. He also called for an end to the partisan attacks from Republicans that followed the Detroit incident.
Even before the Christmas Day bomb plot, the US had been actively aiding the Yemeni government combat militants in the country. Two missile strikes early last month targeted al-Qa’ida leaders in the country and a radical cleric tied to both the Fort Hood shootings and the attack on the Northwestern flight.
General Petraeus’s visit and the British announcement were the culmination of intensified planning on how to stem the growth of extremism in the Arab state. On December 29, Mr Brennan spoke to Mr Saleh about “our shared interest in fighting extremism, including (al-Qa’ida on the Arabian Peninsula), which threatens not just Yemen but America”, an administration official said.