(CNSNews.com) – It was the deadliest attack sustained by the CIA in 26 years, and according to a just-declassified U.S. intelligence cable, Pakistan’s military intelligence agency paid a notorious Islamist terror group $200,000 to carry it out.
State Department spokesman John Kirby, asked about the claim Thursday, declined to “speak about intelligence matters.”
The shock allegation – that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate financed the Haqqani network’s suicide bombing that killed seven CIA employees at Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan on December 30, 2009 – is contained in a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document, marked secret and dated February 6 of the following year.
It was obtained, in heavily-redacted form, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive, an independent non-governmental research institute at The George Washington University.
Claims about collusion between the ISI and terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan are not new, but the document indicates that the military intelligence agency of a major recipient of U.S. military funding directly financed the costliest attack against CIA personnel since Hezbollah bombed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983. (Eight CIA personnel were among 17 Americans killed in Beirut, where a total of 63 people died.)
The Haqqani network (HQN), a militant Taliban faction founded by a veteran anti-Soviet mujahideen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, has its stronghold in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, just across the border from Khost province. It is led by his son, Sirajuddin, who has a $10 million dollar U.S. reward on his head.
The bomb attack at Forward Operating Base Chapman was, according to subsequent book by Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick, carried out by a Jordanian, Humam Khalil al-Balawi, who claimed to have inside information about al-Qaeda and was allowed into the base to share that purported intelligence.
Instead he detonated a bomb, killing himself, the seven CIA employees, his Jordanian military intelligence officer handler, and the base’s external security chief, an Afghan named Arghawan, who had driven al-Balawi from the nearby Pakistan border to the camp. The attack was memorialized in the movie Zero Dark Thirty.
The declassified Feb. 6, 2010 DIA document includes a heading: “PAKISTAN INTER-SERVICES INTELLIGENCE DIRECTORATE AND HAQQANI NETWORK INVOLVEMENT IN THE 30 DECEMBER 2009 SUICIDE ATTACK ON FORWARD OPERATING BASE CHAPMAN.”
Following a redacted portion, the cable continues, “During discussions at an unknown date between Haqqani, Salar and an unidentified ISI-D officer or Officers, Haqqani and Salar were provided USD 200,000 to enable the attack on Chapman.”
(Haqqani is not otherwise identified. The cable may refer to Sirajuddin or possibly his younger brother Badruddin, another HQN militant who was killed in a 2012 U.S. drone strike.)
The cable says Haqqani gave the $200,000 to the individual named Salar, who is not further identified. It says Salar passed on the planning details to someone named Mullawi Sakh, who in turn contacted Arghawan.
“Arghawan was promised USD 100,000 by Salar for his assistance to enable a suicide mission by an unarmed Jordanian National,” it continues. “Following the attack, Salar was believed to have kept the 100,000 promised to Arghawan because Arghawan died during the suicide attack.”
‘It’s not going to discriminate against a terrorist group’
Asked about the allegation of ISI support for the HQN attack, State Department spokesman Kirby said, “I’m not going to speak about intelligence matters.”
“I would just say that we’ve been consistently clear with the highest levels of the government of Pakistan that it must target all militant groups, including the Haqqani network, al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e Toiba,” he said.
Asked specifically about the claim relating to “one of your friendly countries paying money to terrorists to kill your personnel,” Kirby said, “I understand the question. I’m not going to speak to intelligence matters or leaked documents.”
After some back-and-forth about the provenance of the documents, Kirby was asked, “Do you think the ISI still has links with Haqqani network?”
“Listen, I’ve already answered that question,” he replied. “We’ve made it clear what our expectations of the government of Pakistan are, and the government of Pakistan has made it clear publicly, repeatedly that it’s not going to discriminate against groups.”
Pakistan is currently the fifth-largest U.S. foreign assistance recipient, with the administration requesting $742 million in aid in fiscal year 2017.
‘Expedite attack preparations and lethality in Afghanistan’
A second declassified DIA cable obtained by the National Security Archive, dated Jan. 11, 2009, reads in part, “As of late December 2009, at the end of every month, senior Haqqani network leadership met with the ISID in Islamabad. The meetings were attended by Siraj Haqqani and Badruddin (Haqqani). ISID Col (Nasib) chaired the meetings. ISID Major (Daqud) and Sobedar (Zarim) were also in attendance.”
“An unknown amount of funding was provided to the Haqqanis for use in unspecified operations during these meetings. There were two meetings between the ISID and the Haqqani network leadership in December 2009. The first discussed funding for operations in Khowst province. These funds were later provided to tribal elders in Khowst province for their support of the Haqqani network,” it says.
“The second meeting involved ISID direction to the Haqqanis to expedite attack preparations and lethality in Afghanistan,” the cable states.
Aside from the Chapman attack, the U.S. believes the HQN was responsible for or involved in a number of major terror attacks in Afghanistan, including the deadly July 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul (also reportedly carried out with ISI involvement, according to communications intercepted by the U.S.); a May 2010 suicide bombing in Kabul that five American soldiers, one Canadian soldier and 12 Afghan civilians; a Sept. 2011 bomb attack on a NATO outpost that killed five Afghans and injured 77 U.S. soldiers; and a Sept. 2011 assault on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
In September 2011, then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told a Senate committee that the Haqqani network was a “veritable arm” of the ISI. The statement caused an uproar in Pakistan.
The ISI’s main focus through its more than 60-year history has been India, Pakistan’s rival. Governments in New Delhi have long accused the agency of sponsoring groups fighting to end Indian rule in disputed Kashmir.
In Afghanistan, the ISI served as a conduit for U.S. aid to mujahideen fighting the Soviets during the 1980s. It subsequently played a key role in setting up the Afghan Taliban – and only cut ties with that group under U.S. pressure after 9/11.