| Ander Nieuws week 2 / Midden-Oosten 2010 |
Afghan authorities distance themselves from CIA 'black ops'

January 1, 2010
Lynne O'donnell
Afghan authorities were distancing themselves Friday from investigations into a suicide bomb attack that killed seven CIA agents, the US spy agency's biggest single loss of life in almost 30 years.
As questions swirled about how the attacker managed to penetrate security at the base in Khost province, near the Pakistani border, the Afghan defence ministry again denied reports that any ministry personnel were involved.
The government had no comment and a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said there would be no official involvement in any investigation.
The CIA agents were killed on Wednesday when a suicide bomber breached the forward operating base (FOB) Camp Chapman and detonated an explosives-filled vest in a basement gym.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Zahir Azimi, defence ministry spokesman, again denied reports that the bomber was an Afghan army officer or posed as one.
"This is the Taliban talking and nothing the Taliban says should be believed," he said.
The CIA uses FOBs to collect intelligence and conduct direct drone attacks along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, said a Western diplomat, who referred to the activities as "CIA black ops".
"It should come as no surprise that the Afghan government wants nothing to do with this," he said, on condition of anonymity.
"Karzai is not interested in the security of these places. He has zero control over the FOBs that are located along the border. As far as the Afghan state is concerned it's a black hole and whatever happens is the CIA's lookout."
A Western military official who also asked not to be named said the CIA "is on its own" in conducting operations on the US FOBs dotted around Afghanistan.
"There's not a great deal of visibility for what they do except at the State Department," the official said.
CIA operations were part of the "overall plan" for eradicating the Taliban and developing the country, he said, but were not part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) or US military operations.
The New York Times said CIA officers at the base recently had begun an aggressive campaign against a militant group run by Sirajuddin Haqqani.
Citing current and former intelligence officials, it said early indications were that the bomber was brought onto the base as a possible informer and might not have been subjected to rigorous screening.
Afghan political analyst Waheed Mujda said it was the focus on the Haqqani network, which is close to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, that prompted the attack.
The CIA lowered the flag to half-mast at its tightly guarded headquarters in the Washington suburbs, but did not release the names of the casualties, who died cloaked in the same anonymity in which they lived.
"Your triumphs and even your names may be unknown to your fellow Americans, but your service is deeply appreciated," President Barack Obama wrote in a letter to CIA employees.
Obama said that since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, "the CIA has been tested as never before".
The attack comes as the United States increasingly relies on the CIA and other covert forces to pursue strategic goals.
Intelligence operatives are seen as crucial in laying out the groundwork as Obama and NATO allies send in another 36,800 troops as part of a surge expected to last until late 2010.
Meanwhile, two French journalists kidnapped on Wednesday by suspected Taliban in the east of the country are thought to be alive and in good health, a source involved in efforts to free them said.
But the condition of three Afghan assistants abducted with the journalists from France's public television broadcaster was unclear, the source told AFP from Kabul.
Britain's ministry of defence said a British soldier died on Thursday of injuries from a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan, taking the British toll for 2009 to 108.
ISAF said an American soldier died of non-battle related injuries in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday.
The deaths bring to 507 the total number of foreign troops to have died in Afghanistan in 2009, according to an AFP tally based on that from independent website.
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| Ander Nieuws week 2 / Midden-Oosten 2010 |