By Owei Lakemfa
LEON PANETTA, the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director had the painful duty of defending the professional conduct of his agents cut by a suicide bomber in Khost, Afghanistan. Humam Khalil Abu-Mulai al-Balawi was a 36-year old Jordanian doctor who was providing the CIA a stream of useful intelligence information. He was being jointly run by the CIA and the Jordanian intelligence.
So useful , valuable and reliable was he that when he called his handlers that he had some urgent information, he was driven right into the heart of the CIA secretive operations in Afghanistan called Forward Operating Base Chapman, tucked in a hitherto secret military base. He entered the base without being searched. So big was he that the CIA gathered over a dozen of its agents to debrief a single person.
The reasons for these lapses was that Balawi said he had information on the location of Osama Bin Ladenâ€™s deputy in al-Qaeda, the Egyptian bornÂ doctor, Ayman al-Zawahri. For years, there have been no reliable information on either men.
So it was an excited and expectant CIA team that gathered to debrief Balawi. Seven of the operatives did not live to regret their error of judgement. When Balawi got to the gym where they were gathered, he detonated the bomb he was carrying.
Seven CIA officers including the lady who headed the base were killed. She belonged to an elite CIA group called Alec Station which AmericaÂ had specially created to hunt down Bin Laden. Amongst the six injured was the Agencyâ€™s Deputy Station Chief in Afghanistan. Apart from Balawi, another Jordanian killed was Ali bin Zeid, an intelligence officer who was believed to be Balawiâ€™s handler.
The involvement of the Jordanian intelligence in Afghanistan could be embarrassing to the government but not to many around the worldÂ who know that the late Jordanian King Hussein was an active CIA agent who operated under the pseudonym Norman.
The CIA has for years infiltrated al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but what it seemed not to accept is that the organisations have in turn, infiltrated its Afghanistan, Pakistani and Jordanian arms so well that the Balawi dummy could be sold to it.
The Americans and their NATO allies have built a new Afghan army by training 94,000 local soldiers. But one tenthÂ of these defected to the Taliban. The obvious fact is that the Taliban sends its recruits to enlist in the government army to be trainedÂ after which they return. It also means that not all of them would return; some will remain embedded in the Afghan army, providing intelligence reports and rising in the enemy army.
In the wake of the aborted Christmas Day bombing of an American airliner over Detriot, the Americans released a list of 14 countries which it labelled state sponsors of terrorism or whose citizens are on a terrorist watch list. Again, it revealed serious American gap knowledge,Â its tendency to fight blindly and mix politics with purely intelligence matters. One of the countries listed is Cuba, a country AmericaÂ has for almost 50 years carried out terrorist attacks against ranging from several attempts to murder its leader, Fidel Castro, to bombing civilian targets. It is immoral for America to include such a highly principled anti-terrorist country in the list.
In a move which again exposes the American short-sightedness, on that list along with the failed states of Afghanistan and Somalia andÂ war-torn Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, is Nigeria one of Americaâ€™s most loyal and docile client states.
A Nigerian youth is the suspect in the attempted airline bombing. That was enough for an angry AmericaÂ to include Nigeria in the list. With this, the Americans pushed a pliant Nigerian political elite to look it in the eye, and demand to be removed from the list. Americaâ€™s actions are also responsible for subservient Pakistanâ€™s resistance to US increasing its embassy â€œstaffâ€ from 500 to 800 and to the country â€œharassingâ€ American diplomats.
Such patently myopicÂ intelligence measures had led the CIA to help recruit, fund and arm Muslim youths across the Arab world to fight the pro- Soviet government in Afghanistan in a â€œjihadâ€. After â€œvictoryâ€ those youths which included Bin Laden who had been mobilised based on religious fervour rather than principles, matured into various movements like al-Qaeda and Taliban.
Of course the CIA is perhaps the largest, best funded, most sophisticated and experienced intelligence agency in the world. But the reality is that it is being dusted by the rag-tag Taliban forces who deceptively appear unsophisticated, crude and even uneducated.
I donâ€™t have any doubt that some of the best CIA agents are operating in Afghanistan, but their best is not good enough; they are not only incapable of tracking the al-Qaeda leadership for over five years, but cannot even detect local Taliban operatives who make and place Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The devices are the main reason why weekly,Â American soldiers are parcelled in body bags and delivered to grieving families. In 2008, 129 of the 304 American soldiers killed were victims of IEDs while the first casualties this year were four American servicemen blown up on January 3.
The CIA cannot assume and act as if the only people they can trust are themselves and the British. They need to shed their siege mentality, arrogance and belief in force. Americans cannot act like the world policeman and conquerors of the universe, and expect to be loved.
They cannot fire drones to kill civilian populations, treat prisoners of war as common criminals while shielding American criminals like Blackwater and still expect not to be alienated. TheÂ solution to world insecurity includes upholding social justice, respect for theÂ fundamental human rights of all peoples and countries no matter how powerful or weak.