Monday, January 4, 2010




The reputation of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has shot up in the Pashtun belt following reports that it played an important role in the assassination of seven officers of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and an officer of the Jordanian Intelligence related to the royal family of Jordan in a suicide attack launched on December 30,2009, by Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a 36-year-old Al Qaeda sympathiser from Zarqa, Jordan. He was reportedly arrested by the Jordanian intelligence over a year ago and persuaded to work for the Jordanian intelligence and collect intelligence about Al Qaeda in the Af-Pak region. He was sent to Afghanistan and told to work under the control of a person who has been named by the Jordanian media as Ali bin Zeid. He has since been identified as a well-placed officer of the Jordanian intelligence related to the royal family. The Jordanian media has reported his death in action in Afghanistan without saying that he was killed along with the CIA officers.

2. It is understood that al-Balawi, who was infiltrated into the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan earlier last year, was in direct touch with Ali bin Zeid, who used to visit Khost periodically to debrief him. About 20 days prior to the suicide bombing, he had informed Ali bin Zeid that he had some information regarding the location of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's No.2, and sought a meeting to convey the information. Bin Zeid flew to Khost and made arrangements for receiving him at the CIA base. He was brought to the base after he had crossed the border into Afghanistan. It is not clear as to how he managed to enter the base without going through the metal detector which everbody working in the base is required to cross. Apparently, he did not have to and blew himself up as soon as he was with the CIA officers.

3. This would appear to be a joint operation by the followers of the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Pakistani Taliban followers of the late Baitullah Mehsud to jointly avenge the death of Zarqawi in Iraq and Baitullah in South Waziristan. They blamed the CIA for the death of their leaders. al Balawi, it is said, was a great admirer of Zarqawi, who was from the same village as Balawi. He initially approached the Jordanian intelligence with an offer to help in the collection of intelligence about Zawahiri, who was not on good terms with Zarqawi. After having won the confidence of the Jordanian intelligence and the CIA,he approached the Pakistani Taliban after the death of Baitullah Mehsud in a US Drone strike in August last with an offer to carry out a suicide attack against the CIA. His offer was accepted by the TTP and he was trained and given a suicide vest.

4.Latest reports indicate that Balawi may be identical with diehard Al Qaeda member by name Abu Dujanah al-Khurasani, who was very active in jihadi web sites associated with Al Qaeda.Both the Jordanian Intelligence and the CIA seem to have totally failed in checking the antecedents of Balawi before accepting his offer to collect intelligence about Zawahiri.

5. While it is clear that the Pakistani Taliban had not kept the Afghan Taliban informed about this operation, it is not yet clear whether the followers of Zarqawi in Iraq had kept Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri informed. This appears to have been an operation mounted by Al Qaeda of Iraq with the collaboration of the Pakistani Taliban. ( 5-1-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.E-mail: )




Forward Operating Base Chapman is located on the Khost airfield, which is about 4 kms from the Khost town in Afghanistan and 32 kms from the Pakistani border. This field, which was constructed by the Soviets in the 1980s for use against the Afghan Mujahideen, is now reportedly being used by the US for its air operations against Al Qaeda and against the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. It has been reported that it is one of the bases from which the unmanned Drone flights of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are periodically launched to attack Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. The base, which is named after Nathan Chapman, the first US soldier killed in Afghanistan after US forces went into action against Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban after 9/11, reportedly houses a unit of the US State Department, which monitors reconstruction work in the Khost area. It is learnt that an unspecified number of officers belonging to the US intelligence work under the cover of State Department staff in this unit. Seven CIA officers working in this unit, including a woman officer, who was their head, were killed in a suicide blast on December 30,2009.

2. There were three claims of responsibility after the blast---- one from the Afghan Taliban and the other two from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as the Pakistani Taliban is known. The claim on behalf of the Afghan Taliban was made by telephone to journalists on December 31,2009, by one Zabiullah Mujahid, who claimed to be a spokesman of the Afghan Taliban. He was quoted by the media as saying:" The Taliban (Afghan) took responsibility for the attack.Yesterday evening on a base near the old airport in Khost city a suicide bomber by the name of Samiullah committed a suicide attack by detonating his vest and killed 16 Americans." His claim has not been corroborated so far.

3.Another person described as a senior commander connected to the Afghan Taliban was reported to have claimed on January 2, 2010, that the bombing was in retaliation for the U.S. Drone strikes in the Afghan-Pakistan border region. He added: "We attacked this base because the team there was organizing Drone strikes in Loya Paktia and surrounding area." The area mentioned by him is in Afghan terrritory near Khost. His claim has not been corroborated either.

4.A correspondent of the Associated Press claimed to have met Qari Hussain Mehsud, a senior commander of the TTP, who is in charge of its suicide squad and its suicide bomber training centre in South Waziristan, on January 1,2010. Qari Hussain reportedly told him as follows: The TTP had been searching for a way to damage the CIA's ability to launch missile strikes on the Pakistani side of the border. A"CIA agent" contacted Pakistani Taliban commanders and said he'd been trained by the agency to take on militants, but that he was willing to attack the U.S. intelligence operation on the Taliban's behalf. He did not specify the nationality of the "agent." "Thank God that we then trained him and sent him to the Khost air base. The one who was their own man, he succeeded in getting his target."

5. On January 3,2010, sections of the media received an E-mail message purporting to be from Hakimullah Mehsud, the Amir of the TTP, identifying the suicide bomber as a Jordanian national. The message reportedly said: " We claim the responsibility for the attack on the CIA in Afghanistan.It was a revenge for the killing of Baitullah Mehsud and the killing of Al Qaeda's Abdullah by CIA.The suicide bomber was a Jordanian national. This will be admitted by the CIA and the Jordanian Government." It is not yet known who he was referring to as Abdullah of Al Qaeda.

6.Sections of the Jordanian and US media, including the "Washington Post, have identified the suicide bomber as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a 36-year-old Al Qaeda sympathiser from Zarqa, Jordan, arrested by the Jordanian intelligence over a year ago and persuaded to work for the Jordanian intelligence and collect intelligence about Al Qaeda in the Af-Pak region. He was sent to Afghanistan and told to work under the control of a person who has been named by the Jordanian media as Ali bin Zeid. The nationality of the handler is not clear. Was he an officer of the Jordanian Intelligence working with the CIA at the Chapman base? Possibly, but there is no confirmation.

7.It would seem that this joint operation by the CIA and the Jordanian Intelligence had been going on for nearly a year. At some point during this period, al-Balawi was reported to have contacted the Pakistani Taliban and offered to help them in retaliating against the CIA base. The Pakistani Taliban accepted his offer and played him back on the CIA after training him as a suicide bomber. It is reported that the suicide attack of December 30,2009, killed the seven CIA officers, the bomber himself and his handling officer, who had taken him to the CIA base for debriefing. Since he had been meeting the CIA officers for some time in the past and had apparently won their confidence, he was not frisked. The TTP seems to have decided to use him to wipe out the CIA officers after ascertaining from the bomber that the CIA was not in the habit of frisking him whenever he went to the base.

8. The disaster, which has struck the CIA, underlines the dangers of joint operations and over-trusting sources, however productive they may be. The CIA had apparently gone by the assessment of the Jordanian intelligence regarding the dependability of al-Balawi without having the Jordanian assessment verified independently either by CIA's sources or through the intelligence agencies of Israel, which would have been in a good position to verify his dependability. The practice of not frisking him has proved to be suicidal. The dangers of his being won over by the Taliban or his volunteering to assist the Taliban seem to have been overlooked.

9. The account of the circumstances under which the TTP managed to penetrate the CIA base through a Jordanian national, if correct, speak well of the operational capabilities of the TTP and the weaknesses of the US agencies while operating against a Muslim adversary. The conflicting claims of the Afghan Taliban show that the Pakistani Taliban and its Afghan counterpart are not always on the same wavelength and do not necessarily keep each other informed of their operations. (5-1-10)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )




The New Year began on a disastrous note for the people of village Shah Hassankhel and surrounding areas in the Lakki Marwar District of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan. These villagers, who had been co-operating with the Pakistani authorities in countering the activities of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), paid a heavy price for their co-operation when a pick-up van driven by a suicide bomber drove into a local volleyball ground when a friendly match was being played and blew up killing a large number of those who had assembled to watch the match and all the players of the two teams. Eighty people were killed on the spot and another 25 succumbed to their injuries in hospitals.

2.Surprisingly, 25 members of the area Peace Committee, who were holding a meeting in a nearby building, escaped unhurt. The dead included two policemen and six members of the para-military Frontier Constabulary (FC). The members of the Peace Committee have blamed the Government for failing to protect the people of the area despite their co-operation to the Government in its anti-Taliban operations

3. The brutal attack on the New Year’s Day came a little more than a fortnight after a denial by Al Qaeda that it had been attacking civilians in Pakistan. In a statement purported to have been issued on December 12,2009, by Adam Gadahn, who heads the As Sahab, the propaganda wing of Al Qaeda, it denied it was behind bombings in Pakistan that killed hundreds of civilians during 2009. It described such attacks as un-Islamic. The statement also alleged that Al Qaeda was being framed by the US and Pakistani intelligence services in order to discredit it. The statement further alleged: “The mercenaries of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Research and Analysis Wing, Central Intelligence Agency or Blackwater are the real culprits behind these senseless and un-Islamic bombings.”

4.A statement purported to have been issued on December 14,2009, by Azam Tariq, who was described as a spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also denied the involvement of the Pakistani Taliban in the attacks on the civilians and described the attacks on the civilians as an attempt by the state’s secret agencies to defame the jihadi organisations. He was also reported to have telephoned “The News”, the English daily, to make a similar denial. At the same time, he reportedly warned religious scholars of the country to be careful while issuing Fatwas against “Mujahideen” and their suicide bombings in Pakistan. He said religious scholars before issuing such Fatwas against the “Mujahideen” and suicide bombings should have visited the affected areas like Swat, Khyber, Mohmand, Bajaur, Orakzai, Kurram, South and North Waziristan and seen for themselves the destruction caused by the excessive bombings by Pakistani fighter planes. He alleged that even mosques and madrassas were flattened in the military operations in these areas.

5.There were 15 attacks caused often by suicide car bombers during 2009 indiscriminately killing civilians, including women and children. These attacks have particularly been deadly since September 18, 2009. Between January 1 and September 17, there were eight indiscriminate attacks on civilians killing 82 persons. Between September 18 and December 31,2009, there were seven attacks killing 328 persons, many of them women and children shopping in the markets.

6.These indiscriminate attacks on civilians, which were apparently in retaliation for the military operations against the TTP in the Swat Valley of the NWFP and in South Waziristan, caused some revulsion amongst the Pashtuns on whom Al Qaeda and the TTP are dependent for their safehaven and logistic support. Concerned by this, the two statements blaming the intelligence agencies of the US, Pakistan and India for the indiscriminate killing of civilians were disseminated.

7.Surprisingly, despite these denials, there has been another indiscriminate massacre of civilians . The indications are that the TTP carried out the massacre on New Year’s Day in retaliation for the co-operation of the villagers with the security forces in their anti-Taliban operations.

8.While Al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban lose no opportunity to exploit the deaths of civilians in the drone strikes by the US and in the air strikes by the Pakistani military to whip up public anger against the US and Pakistan, neither the US nor Pakistan has been adequately keeping the spotlight on the indiscriminate and wanton killings of civilians by Al Qaeda and the Taliban in order to discredit them. While the civilians killed by the drone strikes were collateral fatalities, the civilians are being deliberately targeted by Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

9.After taking over as President’s special envoy for the Af-Pak region earlier last year, Richard Holbrooke had referred to the poor state of the USA’s psywar machinery and its inability to use its soft power against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. This deficiency continues. (4-1-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariart, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )



February 17 At least three people were killed by a car bomb which exploded outside the home of a government official in the suburb of Bazidkhel near Peshawar. He survived but several passersby were killed or injured.

March 16 At least 14 people were killed and 17 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a busy bus stand of Rawalpindi at Pirwadhai.

March 26 At least 10 people were killed and 25 others injured in a suicide attack at a restaurant near Jandela in South Waziristan.

April 6 Police found the bullet-riddled bodies of four local aid workers, including three women, in the Shinkiari area of the Manshera District in the NWFP.

May 16 Two successive bomb blasts rocked Peshawar leaving 13 people dead and 34 others injured. A powerful car-bomb killed 12 people and wounded 31 others, including schoolchildren and women, in the Barisco area, while a low intensity device ripped through a garments store in the packed Gora Bazaar in Peshawar Saddar, killing a minor girl and injuring three others

May 22 At least 10 people were killed and 75 injured when a powerful car bomb went off outside a cinema hall in Peshawar.

June 14 Nine people were killed and over 40 injured when a powerful explosion ripped through a busy market in Dera Ismail Khan.

August 17 Seven people were killed and eight others injured when a bomb placed in a vehicle exploded at a gas filling station in the Shabqadar area of Charsadda in the NWFP.

September 18 At least 40 people were killed and 80 others injured when a bomber blew up an explosive-laden vehicle in a market on the Kohat-Hangu road In the NWFP.

October 9 A suicide attack at the Khyber Bazaar in Peshawar killed 52 people and injured 148. The blast occurred when a car packed with explosives rammed into a public transport bus.

October 28 At least 118 people were killed and over 200 injured by a car bomb in a market in Peshawar. The market mostly sold women’s garments. Many of those killed were women and children.

November 10 At least 34 people were killed and nearly 100 others injured by a car bomb in a Charsadda bazaar Many of those killed were women and children

December 7 Two powerful bomb blasts in the Moon Market of Lahore killed 54 people.

December 15 A car bomb in a market of Dera Ghazi Khan killed 27 people.

December 22 A suicide bomber blew himself up in Peshawar, outside a club for journalists, killing at least 3 people and injuring 10 others.