Daily brief: CIA bomber was Jordanian ‘double agent’
A turncoat The suicide bomber who penetrated a CIA base in the eastern Afghan province of Khost last week and killed seven Agency operatives and a Jordanian spy was reportedly a trusted informant and al Qaeda double agent from Jordan, vouched for by Jordanian intelligence services and recruited to provide information about al Qaeda’s number ...
The suicide bomber who penetrated a CIA base in the eastern Afghan province of Khost last week and killed seven Agency operatives and a Jordanian spy was reportedly a trusted informant and al Qaeda double agent from Jordan, vouched for by Jordanian intelligence services and recruited to provide information about al Qaeda’s number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri (NYT, WSJ, Wash Post, LAT, NBC, AJE, BBC, AFP). The bomber, a father of two and onetime doctor identified as Hammam Khalil Abu Mallal al-Balawi and also known as Abu Dujana al-Khurasani, was apparently a "top five" author on jihadist websites, and was from the same Jordanian town as erstwhile al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Jihadist websites boasted earlier today that al-Balawi was in fact a "triple agent" (AFP, Telegraph).
The CIA has not publicly identified the victims of the attack, though a U.S. intelligence official commented, "Last week’s attack will be avenged. Some very bad people will eventually have a very bad day" (Wash Post, Politico). And a former CIA official reflected that, "Double agent operations are really complex. The fact that they [al Qaeda] can pull this off shows that they are not really on the run. They have the ability to kick back and think about these things" (NYT).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to present a second round of picks for his cabinet ministers on Saturday, after yesterday ordering the delay of the Afghan Parliament’s planned winter recess until the body approves his 24-member cabinet of ministers, 17 of whom they rejected over the weekend (Reuters, Wash Post, NYT, WSJ, CNN, AFP). And Karzai recently sacked the mayor of Kabul, who was sentenced to four years in prison on corruption charges and who the Afghan president once defended, and appointed a successor, a civil engineer named Mohammad Younus Nawhandish (AFP).
Reconciliation programs in Afghanistan are struggling to keep promises to support the> former Taliban fighters who laid down their weapons in exchange for free medical care, land, temporary housing subsidies, and jobs (Globe and Mail). In 2007, some 4,400 Taliban fighters surrendered across the country, but now defections have slowed to a trickle in spite of the some $3 million that has gone toward reconciliation programs in the last four and a half years.
As some 30,000 U.S. soldiers begin to pour into Afghanistan, fears across the border are rising that renewed military offensives could worsen Pakistan’s bloody struggle with militants, though when U.S. troops launched an offensive in the southern Afghan province of Helmand last summer, Pakistani officials worried about a potential influx of militants that did not end up occurring (Wash Post). Militants in Pakistan continue to target educational institutions, as a boys’ school in Bajaur was blown up earlier today (AFP).
Five men from Alexandria, Virginia arrested in Pakistan last month appeared in Pakistani court yesterday and indicated that they plan to fight any terrorism-related charges brought against them, though Pakistani police have two more weeks to prepare their case (CNN, Wash Post, AJE, AP, LAT). Pakistani police said the men, all in their late teens or early twenties, were in contact with a Taliban recruiter, while one of the men told reporters in court yesterday, "We are not terrorists. We are jihadists, and jihad is not terrorism."
The Hazara hustle
Hazaras, a Shiite ethnic minority that is some 10 to 15 percent of the population in Afghanistan, are making rapid gains in education in the country and now make up more than a quarter of the population of Kabul (NYT). Two Hazara-dominated provinces, Bamiyan and Daykundi, have the highest pass rate for admission into Afghanistan’s top universities.
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