Monday, August 8, 2011



Seven officers of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US and an officer of the Jordanian Intelligence related to the royal family of Jordan were killed 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, in the Khost area of Afghanistan.

2. It was seen as 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.

3.In an operation reminiscent of the catastrophic Khost attack on the CIA by Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban has managed to carry out a catastrophic attack on a US helicopter on August 5,2011, carrying 30 US troops including 22 Navy SEALS, belonging to the same unit which had killed Osama bin Laden in a raid at Abbottabad in Pakistan on May 2 ---killing all of them. It is the largest fatality in a single incident ever suffered by the US during its military operations in Afghanistan launched in 2001 and the largest fatality ever suffered in a single incident by the Joint Special Operations Command, which controls the operations of the Navy SEALS since the JSOC was set up. Seven Afghan troops and an interpreter also died in the incident.

4. Latest reports indicate that the catastrophic incident, which has been greeted with shock and disbelief by the JSOC and the Navy SEALS, was the outcome of a trap successfully laid by the Afghan Taliban, which has claimed responsibility for bringing down the helicopter.

5. Afghan authorities seem to suspect that the attack was in retaliation for the successful raid by the Navy SEALS on the hide-out of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad in Pakistan on May 2, which resulted in his death, but the Taliban itself in its claim of responsibility, has not so far projected the attack as in retaliation for the death of OBL. It was not even clear whether the Taliban was aware of the presence of Navy SEALS from the same unit that killed OBL in the copter that it brought down

6. The Agence France Presse (AFP) has reported as follows on the trap:

“ The Taliban lured US forces into an elaborate trap to shoot down their helicopter, killing 30 American troops in the deadliest such incident of the war, an Afghan official said on August 8.

“A total of 38 people -- 30 US troops, many of them special forces, plus seven Afghan commandos and an interpreter -- were killed when their Chinook came down during an anti-Taliban operation late Friday ( August 5).

“The crash marked the biggest single loss of life for American and NATO forces since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban in late 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks.

“The senior government official told AFP on condition of anonymity that a Taliban commander, Qari Tahir, lured US forces to the scene by tipping them off that a Taliban meeting was taking place.

“He also said four Pakistanis helped Tahir carry out the strike.

"Now it's confirmed that the helicopter was shot down and it was a trap that was set by a Taliban commander," said the official, citing intelligence gathered from the area.

"The Taliban knew which route the helicopter would take," he added.

"That's the only route, so they took position on either side of the valley on mountains and as the helicopter approached, they attacked it with rockets and other modern weapons. It was brought down by multiple shots.

“The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to discuss the issue, also said President Hamid Karzai's US-backed government "thinks this was a retaliation attack for the killing of Osama bin Laden."

“The Taliban themselves did not make such an assertion on claiming responsibility for the attack, which took place in the Taliban-infested Sayd Abad district of Wardak province, just southwest of Kabul.

“US media has reported that the dead included members of the Navy's SEAL Team Six, the secretive unit behind the daring raid that killed bin Laden in Pakistan in May.

“US administration sources interviewed by AFP said the casualties did not include anyone who took part in the bin Laden raid on May 2.”

7.The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement that the CH-47 Chinook helicopter was fired on "by an insurgent rocket-propelled grenade while transporting the US service members and commandos to the scene of an ongoing engagement."

8.According to the statement, the operation had begun when ISAF troops searching for a Taliban leader in the Tangi Valley, surrounded by rugged mountains in central Maidan Wardak province about 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Kabul, were fired on by insurgents.

9.Several of the insurgents were killed before assistance was requested. "As the insurgents continued to fire, the combined force on the ground requested additional forces to assist the operation," the ISAF statement said.

10."Those additional personnel were in-bound to the scene when the CH-47 carrying them crashed, killing all on board."

11.US media has quoted a spokesman of the Naval Special Warfare group as saying: “There’s no precedent for this. It’s the worst day in our history by a mile.” Of the 22 Naval Special Warfare members killed, 17 were SEALs and five were direct support personnel.

12.Since the US military action began in Afghanistan in October, 2001, this is the second time that the Taliban has brought down a US helicopter. In an earlier successful strike by it in the Kunar province on June 28,2005, eight SEALS and eight other military personnel were killed when their copter was brought down by the Taliban. Another three SEALs were killed during a firefight on the ground.

13. An estimated 383 foreign troops have been killed so far this year, almost 50 of them in the first week of August. The catastrophic attack underlines the undamaged capability of the Afghan Taliban to take the NATO forces by surprise and inflict heavy casualties on them and its determination to make the US withdrawal from Afghanistan a humiliating retreat and not a successful withdrawal. ( 9-8-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Twitter : @SORBONNE75)



The Chinese, who have already been annoyed by the meeting of President Barack Obama with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House during His Holiness’ recent visit to the US, have reasons to be further irritated and concerned over the directive on July 20 by the US House Foreign Affairs Committee to the US Secretary of State that China should not be allowed to open any more Consulates in the US until Beijing allowed the US to open a Consulate in Lhasa.

2.The Foreign Relations Authorization Act Fiscal Year 2012 passed by the Committee said: "The Secretary shall seek to establish a United States consulate in Lhasa, Tibet, to provide services to United States citizens traveling in Tibet and to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet, including Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan provinces and, until such consulate is established, shall not permit the establishment in the United States of any additional consulate of the People’s Republic of China".

3.There is reportedly a pending request from the Chinese Foreign Office for permission to open Chinese Consulates at Atlanta and Boston. Now, these two may not materialise unless and until Beijing allows the US to open a Consulate at Lhasa.

4.India should emulate the US and should not allow Beijing to open any more Consulates in India until it permits India to open a Consulate in Lhasa. We have a much stronger case than the US for a Consulate in Lhasa.

5.Non-Governmental supporters of His Holiness in the US have organised an exhibition in the US to educate the public about the Panchen Lama. They also intend to start a movement to ensure that the Chinese do not disregard the Tibetan traditions in imposing their own Dalai Lama on the Tibetan people when His Holiness is no more. The Chinese interference in the traditional religious practices of the Tibetans in order to impose their own Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama on the Tibetan people could become an important issue in the future interactions between Washington and Beijing relating to Tibet and His Holiness.

6.While passing the resolution on a US Consulate in Lhasa, the House Foreign Affairs Committee also expressed serious concerns over the increasing suppression of religious freedom in Tibet and directed representatives of the United States Government to call for a cessation of all interference by the Government of the People's Republic of China in the reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism during exchanges with officials of the Government of the People's Republic of China.

7.The Panchen Lama nominated by the Chinese authorities after arresting the Panchen Lama selected by the representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was to tour in Tibet during July to attend functions held in Tibet to mark the 60th anniversary of the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. According to latest reports from Tibet, he did not undertake the tour which was deferred indefinitely without giving any reasons.

8.The Nepalese Police arrested on August 5,2011, Thinley Lama, the new volunteer coordinator of the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office in Kathmandu, after he had held a news conference in which he called for the protection of the human rights of the Tibetan refugees living in Nepal. There has been intense pressure on the Nepalese Government by Beijing to ban what is projected as the anti-China activities of the refugees. In the first week of July, the Nepalese Police, under pressure from the Chinese Embassy, tried to prevent the refugees from celebrating the birthday of His Holiness. Thinley Lama is a Nepal resident and acts as the representative of His Holiness in Nepal.

9. Human Rights groups have condemned the action of the Nepal Police in detaining Thinley Lama and appealed to the international community to intervene to stop the persecution of Tibetan refugees by the Nepalese authorities under pressure from Beijing.

10.They allege that the Chinese Embassy has been more aggressive in urging Nepal to take action against Tibetan refugees since last month when a new Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Yang Houlan, assumed office. China says there are no Tibetan “refugees,” but only illegal immigrants.

11. It has been reported that as a quid pro quo for curbs on the activities of the refugees by the Nepalese authorities, Beijing has offered financial assistance for the development of the tourist infrastructure in Nepal, including for the development of the infrastructure at Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha.

12. In the meanwhile, reliable reports from Tibet say that the Chinese authorities refrained from taking any action against about 5000 Tibetan monks, who defied the orders of the authorities and held a meeting at Lithang Gonchen in the Sichuan Province from July 15 to 24, for discussions to promote Tibetan cultural values and national unity. Initially, the Chinese authorities tried to prevent the meeting, but when the monks expressed their determination to go ahead with it, they did not intervene.

13.All the proceedings were held in the Tibetan language and all the participants were required to dress typically like Tibetans. There were discussions not only on religious, social and cultural issues, but also on the need to preserve the Tibetan language and the unity of Tibetans living in Tibet’s traditional three provinces of U-Tsang, Kham, and Amdo—all now occupied by China. The monastery of Lithang Gonchen, which hosted the meeting, had sent invitations to over 100 other monasteries—both in Kardze and in neighboring prefectures—to take part. About a half of them participated.

14.Representatives also came from the Kirti monastery, in Kardze, from where about 300 defiant monks were arrested and moved to re-education camps in March this year following an incident of self-immolation by a young monk to protest against the Chinese rule. The Chinese have continued to reject requests from international human rights organisations for permission to visit the detained monks of the Kirti monastery. ( 8-8-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )