CIA Checkmated in Afghanistan
By Richard Walker
As we learn more about the killing of seven CIA agents at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Dec. 30, 2009, it is clear U.S. intelligence, and its Jordanian counterpart, the General Intelligence Department, sometimes known as the Mukhabarat, underestimated Arab revolutionaries and their allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Ever since the wipe-out of the CIA team, which had been targeting Arab revolutionaries and Pakistani Taliban leaders for assassination, the Mukhabarat has tried to downplay its part in what turned out to be a disastrous operation. The Mukhabarat, which likes to think it is as good as the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, had convinced the CIA it had a double agent who could deliver up Osama bin Laden or, at the very least, his supposed deputy, Dr. Ayman Al Zawahiri, for assassination.
The agent assassin was Humam Kalil Abu Malal al- Balawi, aged 31. Balawi was a highly educated doctor, born in Kuwait, of Palestinian origin. He was married to a Turkish journalist but turned against the West because of his anger at the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, particularly in Gaza where the Israeli military committed many war crimes.
Just like other outspoken Muslims over the past three decades, Balawi was particularly upset about foreigners occupying Muslim lands. His views on that issue mirrored the ethos that motivated Afghan freedom fighters, whom the U.S. supported in their war against the Soviets.
In 2001, Balawi and his wife moved from Turkey to Jordan where they had two children. He worked in a Palestinian refugee camp outside Amman, the Jordanian capital, and soon became very angry about the plight of Palestinians throughout the region, especially those under Israeli control. At some point in the past couple of years, he used online postings to express his views about the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as well as
the developing war in Afghanistan. He also condemned Israeli military strategy
in Gaza and the West Bank.
His Internet activity brought him to the attention of Jordanian intelligence in its headquarters in the Jordanian capital, Amman. Within that site is an area set aside for joint CIA-Mukhabarat operations and for the interrogation of suspects seized by Jordan or secretly renditioned to Amman by the CIA. The Mukhabarat has often been accused of torturing suspects held there.
In or around 2007, Balawi found himself in the hands of Mukhabarat interrogators and was held in the section of its headquarters reserved for so-called “high value suspects.” That is where the real story begins. What we can reasonably surmise is that the Jordanians saw in Balawi the ideal agent for infiltrating the core leadership of Arab revolutionary groups, provided of course that he could be turned, known in some circles as “de-radicalized.” It was a torture technique the CIA tinkered with in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and in secret prisons across the globe.
In pursuing that goal, however, the CIA and the Jordanians ignored the fact Balawi did not arrive at his “radical views” by accident. He was, after all, a highly intelligent individual, who was willing to die for his cause.
Balawi may have quickly realized just how desperate the CIA and Mukhabarat were to recruit him, especially when they finally promised him massive sums of money for his services. From his perspective, they were providing him with the opportunity to fulfill his dream of striking at the West.
Once he became an agent for the CIA, he was sent to Pakistan and Afghanistan to infiltrate the Taliban and other Arab groups there. While we may never know the exact nature of his relationships with these organizations, it is fair to assume he was well briefed by them in his new role as their triple agent.
The fact that he was able to become a valuable and trusted asset of the CIA and Jordanians indicates that his Arab revolutionary handlers were far more sophisticated than the CIA or Jordanians.
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(Issue # 8, February 22, 2010)