Alleged Jordanian Royal Killed in Afghanistan One Year Ago

Paracha to deliver six Jordanian royal

family members to embassy

Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Syed Yasir Shah

KOHAT: Former MNA and World Prisoners Relief Commission of Pakistan (WPRCP) chairman Javed Ibrahim Paracha will hand over six Jordanians, stated to be members of the royal family, to the Embassy of Jordan today.

Talking to The News by telephone on Monday, he explained that the six Jordanians including five princesses and an eight-month-old prince, belonging to the royal family of Jordan whose father had been killed in Afghanistan during the war, would be sent back to their country by the Jordanian embassy in Islamabad.

“I have held a meeting with the Jordanian ambassador and discussed the arrangements for sending the five female and one male members of the royal family to Jordan,” he said.

According to Paracha, five princesses namely Hiyyam, Fatima, Zainab, Khadija, Zuhra and the prince Ahmed, are children of Prince Rafiq who was recently killed in Afghanistan. He said they had come to Kohat from Afghanistan and were now staying with him in Kohat after they came to know through the media about the release of members of an Egyptian family from the Haripur Central Prison through his efforts last month.

Paracha, it may be added, had moved the Peshawar High Court and sought release and deportation of the seven Egyptians, who had been charged under Section 14 of Foreigners Act, from the Central Prison Haripur after completion of their prison term.

The court ordered release of the family from the jail and their deportation to Egypt. One of the Jordanian princesses, Hiyyam wife of Prince Nasir bin Saleh, had lost her husband in the Afghanistan recently and now there was no male member in her family so she decided to leave for Jordan.

The Jordanians came to the residence of Paracha in Kohat where he arranged for them to speak with the Jordanian embassy in Islamabad and seek help for returning to Jordan. After an hour-long interview, the embassy confirmed their addresses in Jordan and requested Paracha to hand over the persons to it so that they could be sent home.

Paracha said that the royal family members would be handed over to the embassy after a press conference at Peshawar Press Club at 2 p.m. today.

Meanwhile, the German embassy in Islamabad also contacted Paracha to make enquiries about any Germans languishing in Pakistani jails or living somewhere in the country. Paracha, it may be added, has built reputation for fighting legal cases on behalf of stranded or jailed foreigners, seeking their release and raising money to buy them air tickets and send them home.

The Last Whimper of American Labor Movement

[This is what happens when a revolutionary movement for workers’ rights surrenders its balls.]

Obama Confronts Labor, Lawmakers on Plan to Tax Health Benefits

By Kristin Jensen and Laura Litvan

Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama, facing growing resistance among Democrats over his support for taxing health benefits, will confront U.S. labor leaders and House lawmakers this week on the issue.

Union heads including Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Andrew Stern of the Service Employees International Union will meet with Obama today at the White House. They argue that the proposed tax on family insurance plans worth more than $23,000 would hurt too many workers.

House Democrats are siding with labor leaders, with 190 of the caucus’s 256 members objecting to the tax, which Senate Democrats are proposing to help fund health-care legislation. Unions have special sway this year: Democrats are depending on them to turn out votes for the November elections.

“This issue is toxic,” said Connecticut Representative Joe Courtney, who’s leading the fight against the so-called Cadillac tax. He said many House Democrats are hearing mounting concerns among their constituents on the issue.

Obama will meet with House lawmakers later this week as part of a broader issues conference against the backdrop of health care. House and Senate negotiators are trying to combine their versions of health legislation in time for Obama’s State of the Union speech in late January or early February.

Senators hold the upper hand in the talks because passage is more difficult in their chamber and Republicans are almost universally opposed in Congress, allowing little margin for defections. Still, “the House leadership said they’re going to fight for the House position” on a range of issues, Colorado Representative Diana DeGette said in an interview.

Tax Fight

How to pay for the 10-year legislation, whose price tag topped $1 trillion in the House, may be the biggest fight. Instead of the 40 percent excise tax on employer-provided Cadillac plans, the House bill includes a 5.4 percent surtax on couples earning at least $1 million in annual income.

The Cadillac tax dominated a 1 1/2 hour call led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for more than 100 House Democrats on Jan. 7. As set up now, it would affect individual plans worth more than $8,000 and include higher allowances for retirees and workers in high-risk professions such as mining.

California Representative George Miller, the head of the House education and labor committee, said members are “getting a lot of questions back home.”

Navigating Differences

Proponents of the tax say it will help curb health-care spending by discouraging costly insurance plans.

Labor leaders say the levy will affect older workers and employees of small companies rather than the Wall Street executives it was aimed at. Over time, they say, more middle- class families will be hurt as health-care costs outpace inflation.

“If the president signs a bill with this tax in it, then the results of it will be that middle class Americans will have a cut in their health benefits,” said Gerry Shea, the AFL-CIO’s top health-care negotiator. “That will cause an explosion in the populace.”

As they navigate differences, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reidhave tried to stress the similarities of their plans to cover tens of millions of uninsured Americans and curb costs. Both create online insurance-purchasing exchanges, expand the Medicaid program for the poor and place new restrictions on insurers.

No Public Option

While some Democrats continue to press for a new government-run insurance program, or public option, to compete with private insurers such as Hartford, Connecticut-based Aetna Inc., lawmakers signaled the Senate has won on that issue.

“I’d prefer to call it the public’s option, an option for the public to hold the insurance companies accountable and to increase competition,” Pelosi told reporters on Jan. 5. “There are other ways to do that.”

Still, Pelosi will fight to preserve the House’s vision for a nationwide insurance exchange and bigger subsidies to help Americans meet new requirements to buy coverage. And she and Reid have to find a compromise on abortion.

Michigan Representative Bart Stupak and Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, both Democrats, say they want to make sure none of the federal insurance subsidies go to pay for abortion and have led the charge for greater restrictions.

Abortion-rights supporters said language drafted by Stupak in the House bill may discourage insurers from covering abortions altogether. And they don’t like a Senate compromise drafted by Nelson.

‘Certainly an Improvement’

“It’s certainly an improvement over the Stupak amendment, but we still have concerns that some of the particular language goes beyond current law,” said DeGette, who’s helping lead the fight for abortion-rights supporters.

At least 41 House members have signed a letter vowing to vote against a bill that restricts abortion rights more than current law, enough to torpedo the legislation. On the other side, 64 Democrats voted for Stupak’s amendment.

While that may result in some delays, lawmakers and analysts predicted final passage.

“Democrats have gone too far to turn back now,” said Bill Galston, a former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and a scholar at theBrookings Institution in Washington. “Most Democrats understand that they have more to lose from the failure of this venture than from its success.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington atllitvan@bloomberg.netKristin Jensen in Washington

Why Nigeria Was Chosen For Obama’s Would-be 9/11

Lead Image

It’s over for Yar’Adua

President Umaru Yar’Adua is seriously brain damaged, is not able to recognise anyone, including his wife Turai, and can no longer perform the functions of the office of the president, according to multiple sources who have spoken to NEXT on Sunday.

But this fact, which has left a nation of 150 million people rudderless and its government in disarray, is being concealed from the public through an elaborate scam orchestrated directly and energetically by the First Lady.

Turai Yar’Adua has barred all but two security and one civilian aide, and a legislator from having access to the president in a two-tier power loop of which she is the organising principal. The inner core consists of the president’s chief security officer, Mohammed Tilde, and his military ADC, Mustapha Onoedieva; an infantry colonel from Edo State. Through Mrs. Yar’Adua, this small knot works with Shehu Inuwa Imam, a member of the House of Representatives from Katsina State who is the president’s childhood friend; Tanimu Yakubu, the president’s chief economic adviser; and Sayyadi Abba Ruma, the agriculture minister. She is also aided by Inuwa Baba, the senior private adviser to the president on protocol matters.

Mr. Baba is an old Yar’Adua family friend, so loyal that he once got into prison uniform to stay behind bars with Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the elder brother of the current president. who died in Abacha’s gulag in 1999.

The group has blocked all direct access to the rapidly ailing president, said sources in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf region and in Europe and the US.

Despite several trips to Saudi Arabia, no other Nigerian government official, including the president’s principal private secretary, ministers, and governors, has succeeded in seeing the president, who vanished from our country 50 days ago and has not been heard from since.

Grand deception

The people working frantically to keep up this ruse, including Mr. Yakubu, have also gone to great lengths to deceive the public, by claiming they have spoken to a president who is unable to speak and has lost all powers of cognition.

In fact, we can confirm that senior government officials lied when they claimed that Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, who is next in line to succeed Mr. Yar’Adua, has spoken directly to the president.

Although Mr. Jonathan subsequently went along with the charade, he has confided in several people in recent days that he did not speak to the president at all, according to informed sources. “He is trying not to create any friction because he knows he is about to become the next president,” one source told our reporters.

In a telephone conversation with NEXT on Sunday, the Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa, emphatically dismissed any notion that the president did not speak to any of the state officials. Mr. Aondoakaa said the vice president confirmed this claim himself that the dialogue took place,”No, that cannot be the case,” Mr. Aondoakaa insisted on Friday.

Mrs. Yar’Adua now relies on an all-Saudi staff, including drivers, security personnel and others, in the hope that no Nigerian outside her Gang of Three on the ground in Jeddah can tell for certain what is going on. Such is the nearly impregnable ring of steel thrown around the fading leader that even his principal private secretary, David Edevbie, was unable to see him when he recently travelled to Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to get the “president” to sign the budget. We have learned that Mr. Edevbie was restricted to his hotel, where he received a visit from the president’s chief security officer, who collected the documents and subsequently returned them “signed.”

He may never come back

Even the president’s closest and most powerful aides have accepted that Mr. Yar’Adua may never return as president. “It is over for this president,” said one source at the centre of the nation’s political firmament. “The question is when and how.”

Virtually all those who spoke to NEXT did so on condition of anonymity, reflecting the sensitivity surrounding the president’s rapidly deteriorating health and their own political calculations during an inevitable transition.

While the end is virtually certain, several sources said the First Lady is hoping to hold off any acknowledgment of Mr. Yar’Adua’s incapacitation in the hope of lining up a friendly successor, including an effort to position Adamu Aliero, the minister of the federal capital territory and a close ally of the First Lady, as the new vice president once Mr. Jonathan steps up to the presidency as mandated by the constitution.

Other political forces, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, as well as a claque of powerful former military officers led by Ibrahim Babangida, the former military president, are also pushing various candidates to be Mr. Jonathan’s deputy (see accompanying story.)

However, many see Mr. Jonathan, a colourless former governor of tiny Bayelsa state and an accidental vice president, as a mere transitional figure who will hold power only until the next elections are held.

By that calculation, the ruling People’s Democratic Party will honor its internal rotational arrangements to keep a northerner in the presidency for an additional term of four years. This would put a new vice president in pole position to become the PDP presidential candidate and be a sure bet to be the next president. The calculation is that, in Nigeria, votes do not count and the incumbent party is practically guaranteed to use every means to maintain itself in power.

In orchestrating her increasingly frantic efforts, Turai Yar’Adua’ has proved an enthusiastic user of email as well as sms messages to friend and foe alike. She, with the gang wound tight around the president, has been working hard to sell the candidacy of Ailero to be Jonathan’s deputy.

A government in chaos

The cloak of secrecy thrown around the president’s status, and Turai Yar’Adua’s determined push for an ally to succeed her ailing husband, have thrown our government into chaos. “Nobody knows what’s going on,” confessed one senior government official.

The cabinet, or federal executive council, is paralysed because it is in the dark. On a recent interview with BBC, for example, Ojo Maduekwe, the foreign minister, said, incredibly, that he had had “no cause” to speak to the president for the past six weeks! Information minister Dora Akunyili has issued statement after statement even though she has not had any contact with the president.

Yet the cabinet, which should by law start the process of declaring the president medically incapacitated, is refusing to lift a finger.

The sense of confusion has also stopped senior officials from coordinating their official actions. For example, according to our sources, Ahmed Yayale, the secretary to the government, had no idea that Mr. Edevbie had travelled to Saudi Arabia to try to see the president-until after the fact.

Even the security services are not immune to the governmental disarray. The director general of the State Security Services (SSS), Afakriya Gadzama is said to be angry that Mr. Tilde, the president’s chief security officer, is no longer taking his calls.

As an employee of the SSS seconded to be at the president’s side, Mr. Tilde is supposed to keep his agency in the loop regarding the president’s safety.

That even the SSS chief is kept out of the loop is particularly jarring. Mr. Gadzama is after all widely considered a trusted aide of President Yar’Adua. The two go back as far as their high school days at Barewa College, where Mr. Yar’Adua, then a house prefect, appointed Mr. Gadzama to succeed him in 1971.

“If Turai doesn’t trust Gadzama,” said one source who is also a Barewa old boy, “that is how paranoid they have become.”

This royal mess has left Abuja in a state of paralysis. “The government has ground to a halt,” a senior official said last week. “Something will have to give very soon.”

America has an impressive record of starting wars but a dismal one of ending them well.

America has an impressive record of starting wars but a dismal one of ending them well.


President Obama’s decision to escalate U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan earned him at most two muted cheers from Washington’s warrior-pundits. Sure, the president had acceded to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for more troops. Already in its ninth year, Operation Enduring Freedom was therefore guaranteed to endure for years to come. The Long War begun on George W. Bush’s watch with expectations of transforming the Greater Middle East gained a new lease on life, its purpose reduced to the generic one of “keeping America safe.”

Yet the Long War’s most ardent supporters found fault with Obama’s words and demeanor. The president had failed to convey the requisite enthusiasm for sending young Americans to fight and die on the far side of the world while simultaneously increasing by several hundred billion dollars the debt imposed on future generations here at home. “Has there ever been a call to arms more dispiriting, a trumpet more uncertain?” asked a querulous Charles Krauthammer. Obama ought to have demonstrated some of the old “bring ’em on” spirit that served the previous administration so well. “We cannot prevail without a commander in chief committed to success,” wrote Krauthammer.

Other observers made it clear that merely prevailing was nowhere near good enough. They took Obama to task for failing to use the V-word. Where was the explicit call for victory? “‘Win’ is a word that Obama avoided,” noted Max Boot with disapproval. The president “spoke of wanting to ‘end this war successfully’ but said nothing of winning the war.” Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard read off the same talking points. “The personal commitment of the president to pursue the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda until they are defeated was not there,” he lamented. “…To have rallied the country and the world, Obama needed to indicate he would lead a fight to win in Afghanistan, with the help of allies if possible, but with the armed forces of the U.S. alone if necessary. He didn’t say anything like that. He didn’t come close.”

Oddly enough, the military leaders to whom Krauthammer, Boot, and Barnes all insist that Obama should defer also eschew the V-word. McChrystal and McChrystal’s boss, Gen. David Petraeus, have repeatedly said that military power alone won’t solve the problems facing a country such as Afghanistan. Indeed, the counterinsurgency doctrine that Petraeus revived and that McChrystal is keen to apply in Afghanistan in effect concedes that violence alone is incapable of producing decisive and politically useful outcomes. Expend as much ammunition as you want: what today’s military calls “kinetic” methods won’t get you where you want to go. Acknowledging that battle doesn’t work, counterinsurgency advocates call for winning (or bribing) hearts and minds instead. And they’ll happily settle for outcomes—take a look at Iraq, for example—that bear scant resemblance to victory as traditionally defined.

That the post-Cold War United States military, reputedly the strongest and most capable armed force in modern history, has not only conceded its inability to achieve decision but has in effect abandoned victory as its raison d’être qualifies as a remarkable development.

Since 1945, the United States military has devoted itself to the proposition that, Hiroshima notwithstanding, war still works—that, despite the advent of nuclear weapons, organized violence directed by a professional military elite remains politically purposeful. From the time U.S. forces entered Korea in 1950 to the time they entered Iraq in 2003, the officer corps attempted repeatedly to demonstrate the validity of this hypothesis.

The results have been disappointing. Where U.S. forces have satisfied Max Boot’s criteria for winning, the enemy has tended to be, shall we say, less than ten feet tall. Three times in the last 60 years, U.S. forces have achieved an approximation of unambiguous victory—operational success translating more or less directly into political success. The first such episode, long since forgotten, occurred in 1965 when Lyndon Johnson intervened in the Dominican Republic. The second occurred in 1983, when American troops, making short work of a battalion of Cuban construction workers, liberated Granada. The third occurred in 1989 when G.I.’s stormed the former American protectorate of Panama, toppling the government of long-time CIA asset Manuel Noriega.

Apart from those three marks in the win column, U.S. military performance has been at best mixed. The issue here is not one of sacrifice and valor—there’s been plenty of that—but of outcomes.

A seesawing contest for the Korean peninsula ended in a painfully expensive draw. Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs managed only to pave the way for the Cuban Missile Crisis. Vietnam produced stupendous catastrophe. Jimmy Carter’s expedition to free American hostages held in Iran not only failed but also torpedoed his hopes of winning a second term. Ronald Reagan’s 1983 intervention in Beirut wasted the lives of 241 soldiers, sailors, and Marines for reasons that still defy explanation. Reagan also went after Muammar Qaddafi, sending bombers to pound Tripoli; the Libyan dictator responded by blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland—and survived to tell the tale. In 1991, George H.W. Bush portrayed Operation Desert Storm as a great victory sure to provide the basis for a New World Order; in fact the first Gulf War succeeded chiefly in drawing the United States more deeply into the vortex of the Middle East—it settled nothing. With his pronounced propensity for flinging about cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs, Bill Clinton gave us Mogadishu, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo —frenetic activity with little to show in return. As for Bush and his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the less said the better.

What are we to make of this record? For Krauthammer, Boot, and Barnes, the lessons are clear: dial up the rhetoric, increase military spending, send in more troops, and give the generals a free hand. The important thing, writes William Kristol in his own assessment of Obama’s Afghanistan decision, is to have a commander in chief who embraces “the use of military force as a key instrument of national power.” If we just keep trying, one of these times things will surely turn out all right.

An alternative reading of our recent military past might suggest the following: first, that the political utility of force—the range of political problems where force possesses real relevance—is actually quite narrow; second, that definitive victory of the sort that yields a formal surrender ceremony at Appomattox or on the deck of an American warship tends to be a rarity; third, that ambiguous outcomes are much more probable, with those achieved at a cost far greater than even the most conscientious war planner is likely to anticipate; and fourth, that the prudent statesman therefore turns to force only as a last resort and only when the most vital national interests are at stake. Contra Kristol, force is an “instrument” in the same sense that a slot machine or a roulette wheel qualifies as an instrument.

To consider the long bloody chronicle of modern history, big wars and small ones alike, is to affirm the validity of these conclusions. Bellicose ideologues will pretend otherwise. Such are the vagaries of American politics that within the Beltway the views expressed by these ideologues—few of whom have experienced war—will continue to be treated as worthy of consideration. One sees the hand of God at work: the Lord obviously has an acute appreciation for irony.

In the long run, however, the nattering of Kristol and his confrères is unlikely to matter much. Far more important will be the conclusions about war and its utility reached by those veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who will eventually succeed Petraeus and McChrystal on the uppermost rung of the American military profession.

The impetus for weaning Americans away from their infatuation with war, if it comes at all, will come from within the officer corps. It certainly won’t come from within the political establishment, the Republican Party gripped by militaristic fantasies and Democrats too fearful of being tagged as weak on national security to exercise independent judgment. Were there any lingering doubt on that score, Barack Obama, the self-described agent of change, removed it once and for all: by upping the ante in Afghanistan he has put his personal imprimatur on the Long War.

Yet this generation of soldiers has learned what force can and cannot accomplish. Its members understand the folly of imagining that war provides a neat and tidy solution to vexing problems. They are unlikely to confuse Churchillian calls to arms with competence or common sense.

What conclusions will they draw from their extensive and at times painful experience with war? Will they affirm this country’s drift toward perpetual conflict, as those eagerly promoting counterinsurgency as the new American way of war apparently intend? Or will the officer corps reject that prospect and return to the tradition once represented by men like George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Matthew B. Ridgway?

As our weary soldiers trek from Iraq back once more to Afghanistan, this figures prominently among the issues to be decided there. 

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new bookWashington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War is due out in the spring.

Guantanamo Inmates Most Committed Enemies

Many Guantanamo inmates are ‘back on battlefield’

* US senator says a third of inmates released from US naval base back to fighting US
* Believes Gitmo experience has made detainees ‘want to attack US’

WASHINGTON: Dozens of released Guantanamo detainees have returned to the battlefield, US Senator Dianne Feinstein said on Sunday, as she urged the Barack Obama administration not to release more inmates from the war-on-terror prison camp.

Feinstein said this while talking on a television programme. She said a third of former inmates at the US naval base have returned to fight against US interests. She added they hailed from Yemen, which is the new focal point in the US fight against terrorism.

“I think at least 24 or 28 are confirmed returned to the battlefield in Yemen, and a number are suspected … If you combine the suspected and the confirmed, the number I have is 74 detainees who have gone back into the fight,” said Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Not rehabilitation: “I think the Gitmo experience is not one that leads to rehabilitation,” she added.

Her views were seconded by Congressman Peter Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

“These people are released and a number of them go back to the battlefield. They form the corps of people who want to attack the United States. It’s a national security, homeland security issue,” he said.

These remarks came just days after a Pentagon spokesman confirmed that an increasing number of former detainees from the US prison in Guantanamo have forged links to terrorist groups after their release. But he had said last week that the figure remained “classified”. However, he added that according to a report by the Defence Department, 14 percent of the detainees were suspected of having forged ties with terrorists.

The issue has taken on heightened importance after a failed attack on a US airliner on Christmas Day was tied to Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, where two former Guantanamo detainees were believed to be acting as senior leaders.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday suspended transfers of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen following the Christmas Day incident.

The Obama administration remains under intense pressure however from domestic critics not to release any of the remaining 198 detainees at Guantanamo, which include includes an estimated 91 Yemenis, amid rising fear in the United States regarding terrorism. afp

Lebanese army fires on Israeli fighter planes

Lebanese army fires on Israeli fighter planes

BEIRUT: Lebanese anti-aircraft guns opened fire on four Israeli warplanes, which were violating its airspace at low altitude on Monday, the military said.

“The army’s anti-aircraft guns fired at four enemy Israeli planes that had been over flying the southern area of Marjayoun this morning,” an army spokesman told foreign news agency on condition of anonymity.

A UN spokesman in Lebanon said the overflights were a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended a devastating 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah.

The shadow war in Afghanistan

The shadow war in Afghanistan

By Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse

It was a Christmas and a New Year from hell for American intelligence, that US$75 billion labyrinth of at least 16 major agencies and a handful of minor ones. As the old year was preparing to be rung out, so were the US’s intelligence agencies, which managed not to connect every obvious clue to a (literally) seat-of-the-pants al-Qaeda operation. It hardly mattered that the underwear bomber’s case – except for the placement of the bomb

material – almost exactly, even outrageously, replicated the infamous, and equally inept, “shoe bomber” plot of eight years ago.

That would have been bad enough, but the New Year brought worse. Army Major General Michael Flynn, the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces deputy chief of staff for intelligence in Afghanistan, released a report in which he labeled military intelligence in the war zone – but by implication US intelligence operatives generally – as “clueless”. They were, he wrote, “ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced … and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers … Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the US intelligencecommunity is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy.”

As if to prove the general’s point, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor with a penchant for writing inspirational essays on jihadi websites and an “unproven asset” for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), somehow entered a key agency forward operating base in Afghanistan unsearched, supposedly with information on al-Qaeda’s leadership so crucial that a high-level CIA team was assembled to hear it and Washington was alerted.

He proved to be either a double or a triple agent and killed seven CIA operatives, one of whom was the base chief, by detonating a suicide vest bomb, while wounding yet more, including the agency’s number-two operative in the country. The first suicide bomber to penetrate a US base in Afghanistan, he blew a hole in the CIA’s relatively small cadre of agents knowledgeable on al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

It was an intelligence disaster splayed all over the headlines: “Taliban bomber wrecks CIA’s shadowy war”, “Killings Rock Afghan Strategy”, “Suicide bomber who attacked CIA post was trusted informant from Jordan”. It seemed to sum up the hapless nature of America’s intelligence operations, as the CIA, with all the latest technology and every imaginable resource on hand, including the latest in Hellfire missile-armed drone aircraft, was out-thought and out-maneuvered by low-tech enemies.

No one could say that the deaths and the blow to the Americanwar effort weren’t well covered. There were major TV reports night after night and scores of news stories, many given front-page treatment. And yet lurking behind those deaths and the man who caused them lay a bigger American war story that went largely untold. It was a tale of a new-style battlefield that the Americanpublic knows remarkably little about, and which bears little relationship to the Afghan war as we imagine it or as our leaders generally discuss it.

We don’t even have a language to describe it accurately. Think of it as a battlefield filled with muscled-up, militarized intelligence operatives, hired-gun contractors doing military duty, and privatized “native” guard forces. Add in robot assassins in the air 24/7 and kick-down-the-door-style night-time “intelligence” raids, “surges” you didn’t know were happening, strings of military bases you had no idea were out there, and secretive international collaborations you were unaware the US was involved in. In Afghanistan, the American military is only part of the story. There’s also a polyglot “army” representing the US that wears no uniforms and fights shape-shifting enemies to the death in a murderous war of multiple assassinations and civilian slaughter, all enveloped in a blanket of secrecy.

Black ops and black sites
Secrecy is a part of war. The surprise attack is only a surprise if secrecy is maintained. In wartime, crucial information must be kept from an enemy capable of using it. But what if, as in the US’s case, wartime never ends, while secrecy becomes endemic, as well as profitable and privitizable, and much of the informationavailable to both sides on the US’s shadowy new battlefield is mainly being kept from the American people? The coverage of the suicide attack on forward operating base (FOB) Chapman offered a rare, very partial window into that strange war – but only if you were willing to read piles of news reports looking for tiny bits ofinformation that could be pieced together.

We did just that and here’s what we found:

Let’s start with FOB Chapman, where the suicide bombing took place. An old Soviet base near the Pakistani border, it was renamed after a Green Beret who fought beside CIA agents and was the first American to die in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It sits in isolation near the town of Khost, just kilometers from the larger Camp Salerno, a forward operating base used mainly by US Special Operations troops.

Occupied by the CIA since 2001, Chapman is regularly described as “small” or “tiny” and, in one report, as having “a forbidding network of barriers, barbed wire and watchtowers”. Though a US State Department provisional reconstruction team has been stationed there (as well as personnel from the US Agency for International Development and the US Department of Agriculture), and though it “was officially a camp for civilians involved in reconstruction”, FOB Chapman is “well-known locally as a CIA base” – an “open secret”, as another report put it.

The base is guarded by Afghan irregulars, sometimes referred to in news reports as “Afghan contractors”, about whom we know next to nothing. (“CIA officials on Thursday would not discuss what guard service they had at the base.”) Despite the recent suicide bombing, according to Julian Barnes and Greg Miller of the Los Angeles Times, a “program to hire Afghans to guard US forward operating bases would not be canceled. Under that program, which is beginning in eastern Afghanistan, Afghans will guard towers, patrol perimeter fences and man checkpoints.”

Also on FOB Chapman were employees of the private securitycontractor Xe (formerly Blackwater), which has had a close relationship with the CIA in Afghanistan. We know this because of reports that two of the dead “CIA” agents were Xe operatives.

Someone else of interest was at FOB Chapman at that fateful meeting with the Jordanian doctor Balawi – Sharif Ali bin Zeid, a captain in the Jordanian intelligence service, the eighth person killed in the blast. It turns out that Balawi was an agent of the Jordanian intelligence, which held (and abused) torture suspects kidnapped and disappeared by the CIA in the years of George W Bush’s “global war on terror”.

The service reportedly continues to work closely with the agency and the captain was evidently running Balawi. That’s what we now know about the polyglot group at FOB Chapman on the front lines of the agency’s black-ops war against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the allied fighters of the Sirajuddin and Jalaluddin Haqqani network in nearby Pakistan. If there were other participants, they weren’t among the bodies.

The agency surges
And here’s something that’s far clearer in the wake of the bombing: among the US’s vast network of bases in Afghanistan, the CIA has its own designated bases – as, by the way, do US Special Operations forces, and according to a Nation reporter, Jeremy Scahill, even private contractor Xe. Without better reporting on the subject, it’s hard to get a picture of these bases, but Siobhan Gorman of the Wall Street Journal tells us that a typical CIA base houses no more than 15-20 agency operatives (which means that Balawi’s explosion killed or wounded more than half of the team on FOB Chapman).

And don’t imagine that we’re only talking about a base or two. In the single most substantive post-blast report on the CIA, Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times wrote that the agency has “an archipelago of firebases in southern and eastern Afghanistan”, most built in the last year. An archipelago? Imagine that. And it’s also reported that even more of them are in the works.

With this goes another bit of information that the Wall Street Journal seems to have been the first to drop into its reports. While you’ve heard about President Barack Obama’s surge in American troops and possibly even State Department personnel in Afghanistan, you’ve undoubtedly heard little or nothing about a CIA surge in the region, and yet the Journal’s reporters tell us that agency personnel will increase by 20-25% in the surge months. By the time the CIA is fully bulked up with all its agents, paramilitaries and private contractors in place, Afghanistan will represent, according to Julian Barnes of the Los Angeles Times, one of the largest “stations” in agency history.

This, in turn, implies other surges. There will be a surge in base-building to house those agents, and a surge in “native” guards – at least until another suicide bomber hits a base thanks to Taliban supporters among them or one of them turns a weapon on the occupants of a base – and undoubtedly a surge in Blackwater-style mercenaries as well.

Keep in mind that the latest figure on private contractors suggests that 56,000 more of them will surge into Afghanistan in the next 18 months, far more than surging US troops, State Department employees and CIA operatives combined. And don’t forget the thousands of non-CIA “uniformed and civilian intelligence personnel serving with the Defense Department and joint interagency operations in the country”, who will undoubtedly surge as well.

Making war
The efforts of the CIA operatives at Chapman were reportedly focused on “collecting information about militant networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and plotting missions to kill the networks’ top leaders”, especially those in the Haqqani network in the North Waziristan tribal area just across the Pakistani border. They were evidently running “informants” into Pakistan to find targets for the agency’s ongoing drone assassination war.

These drone attacks in Pakistan have themselves been on an unparalleled surge course ever since Obama entered office; 44 to 50 (or more) have been launched in the past year, with civilian casualties running into the hundreds. Like local Pashtuns, the agency essentially doesn’t recognize a border. For them, the Afghan and Pakistani tribal borderlands are a single world.

In this way, as Paul Woodward of the website War in Context has pointed out, “Two groups of combatants, neither of whom wear uniforms, are slugging it out on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Each group has identified what it regards as high-value targets and each is using its own available means to hit these targets. The Taliban/al-Qaeda are using suicide bombers while the CIA is using Hellfire missiles.”

Since the devastating explosion at Chapman, statements of vengeance have been coming out of CIA mouths – of a kind that, when offered by the Taliban or al-Qaeda, we consider typical of a backward, “tribal” society. In any case, the secret war is evidently becoming a private and personal one. Balawi’s suicide attack essentially took out a major part of the agency’s targeting information system.

As one unnamed NATO official told the New York Times, “These were not people who wrote things down in the computer or in notebooks. It was all in their heads … [The CIA is] pulling in new people from all over the world, but how long will it take to rebuild the networks, to get up to speed? Lots of it is irrecoverable.” And the agency was already generally known to be “desperately short of personnel who speak the language or are knowledgeable about the region”. Nonetheless, drone attacks have suddenly escalated – at least five in the week since the suicide bombing, all evidently aimed at “an area believed to be a hideout for militants involved”. These sound like vengeance attacks and are likely to be particularly counterproductive.

To sum up, US intelligence agents, having lost out to enemy “intelligence agents”, even after being transformed into full-time assassins, are now locked in a mortal struggle with an enemy for whom assassination is also a crucial tactic, but whose operatives seem to have better informants and better information.

In this war, drones are not the agency’s only weapon. The CIA also seems to specialize in running highly controversial, kick-down-the-door “night raids” in conjunction with Afghan paramilitary forces. Such raids, when launched by US Special Operations forces, have led to highly publicized and heavily protested civilian casualties. Sometimes, according to reports, the CIA actually conducts them in conjunction with special ops forces.

In a recent American-led night raid in Kunar province, eight young students were, according to Afghan sources, detained, handcuffed and executed. The leadership of this raid has been attributed, euphemistically, to “other government agencies” (OGAs) or “non-military Americans”. These raids, whether successful in the limited sense or not, don’t fit comfortably with the Obama administration’s “hearts and minds” counter-insurgency strategy.

The militarization of the agency
As the identities of some of the fallen CIA operatives at Chapman became known, a pattern began to emerge. There was 37-year-old Harold Brown Jr, who formerly served in the army. There was Scott Roberson, a former Navy SEAL who did several tours of duty in Iraq, where he provided protection to officials considered at high risk. There was Jeremy Wise, 35, an ex-SEAL who left the military last year, signed up with Xe, and ended up working for the CIA. Similarly, 46-year-old Dane Paresi, a retired special forces master sergeant turned Xe hired gun, also died in the blast.

For years, American author and professor Chalmers Johnson, himself a former CIA consultant, has referred to the agency as “the president’s private army”. Today, that moniker seems truer than ever. While the civilian CIA has always had a paramilitary component, known as the Special Activities Division, the unit was generally relatively small and dormant. Instead, military personnel like the army’s special forces or indigenous troops carried out the majority of the CIA’s combat missions.

After the 9/11 attacks, however, George W Bush empowered the agency to hunt down, kidnap and assassinate suspected al-Qaeda operatives, and the CIA’s traditional specialties of spycraft and intelligence analysis took a distinct back seat to Special Activities Division operations, as its agents set up a global gulag of ghost prisons, conducted interrogations by torture, and then added those missile-armed drone and assassination programs.

The military backgrounds of the fallen CIA operatives cast a light on the way the world of “intelligence” is increasingly muscling up and becoming militarized. This past summer, when a former CIA official suggested the agency might be backing away from risky programs, a current official spit back from the shadows: “If anyone thinks the CIA has gotten risk-averse recently, go ask al-Qaeda and the Taliban … The agency’s still doing cutting-edge stuff in all kinds of dangerous places.”

At about the same time, reports were emerging that Blackwater/Xe was providing security, arming drones, and “perform[ing] some of the agency’s most important assignments” at secret bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It also emerged that the CIA had paid contractors from Blackwater to take part in a covert assassination program in Afghanistan.

Add this all together and you have the grim face of “intelligence” at war in 2010 – a new micro-brew when it comes to Washington’s conflicts. Today, in Afghanistan, a militarized mix of CIA operatives and ex-military mercenaries as well as native recruits and robot aircraft is fighting a war “in the shadows” (as they used to say in the Cold War). This is no longer “intelligence” as anyone imagines it, nor is it “military” as military was once defined, not when US operations have gone mercenary and native in such a big way.

This is pure “lord of the flies” stuff – beyond oversight, beyond any law, including the laws of war. And worse yet, from all available evidence, despite claims that the drone war is knocking off mid-level enemies, it seems remarkably ineffective. All it may be doing is spreading the war farther and digging it in deeper.

Talk about “counter-insurgency” as much as you want, but this is another kind of battlefield, and “protecting the people” plays no part in it. And this is only what can be gleaned from afar about a semi-secret war that is being poorly reported. Who knows what it costs when you include the US hired guns, the Afghan contractors, the bases, the drones and the rest of the personnel and infrastructure? Nor do we know what else, or who else, is involved, and what else is being done. Clearly, however, all those billions of “intelligence” dollars are going into the blackest of black holes.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s He is the author ofThe End of Victory Culturea history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of PublishingHe also editedThe World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), an alternative history of the mad Bush years.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of and the winner of a 2009 Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction as well as a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, In These Times, and regularly at TomDispatch. Turse is currently a fellow at New York University’s Center for the United States and the Cold War. He is the author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books). His website is

(Copyright 2010 Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse.)