Afghanistan Bombing, Taliban Spy Games

Jarret Brachman has a fascinating story at his blog site(MSNBC has it, too, as does everyone else now.)  It seems that al Jazeera and other outlets are reporting that the man who killed the CIA officers and one Jordanian intelligence officer last week in Afghanistan was himself a Jordanian.  And not just any Jordanian, but a prominent jihadist pundit named Himam Khalil Mohammad or Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, aka Abu Dujana al-Khorasani.  Abu Dujana had been at one time the moderator for one of the major jihadist web forums, Al Hesbah.  (Brachman teases us with the possibility of a forthcoming book chapter on him.)

The story gets stranger.  Apparently the Jordanian service had recruited Abu Dujanah and sent him to AfPak to find Ayman al-Zawahiri.  According to the Taliban, Abu Dujana had been reporting to the Jordanian and American services for about a year.  However, the Taliban are claiming to have doubled him and, eventually, sent him back carrying a suicide bomb.  It is ironic, by the way, that the Abu Dujana who lived in the time of the Prophet is famous not only for his courage and martial prowess at the Battle of Uhud (which the Muslims lost) but also for having spared an infidel woman who was on the battlefield.  The press has widely reported that a female CIA officer, a mother of three, was killed in the suicide bombing.

All sorts of interesting aspects to this.  First off, it seems quite likely that Abu Dujana was in fact doubled.  It is difficult to explain why he would accept a suicide mission otherwise.  That said, it is likely that he wasn’t doubled immediately.  Running double agents is tough and running them against the CIA is tougher, though East Germany and Cuba have done it.  The powers that be will want to figure out exactly when that happened so that they can know what of his information (if any) to still credit.  Second, it would be very interesting to know how Dujana’s cover was blown to the Taliban.  Did he blow it himself in a fit of conscience?  Or did the Taliban do some sort of investigation and if so, what tipped them off to do it?  If it was the latter, I think this tells us something more about the sophisticated nature of the enemy that we face.  The intelligence chapter in The Terrorist Perspectives Project: Strategic and Operational Views of Al Qaida and Associated Movements refers to a number of intelligence manuals/texts that float around the jihadist world.  Perhaps more attention should be paid to precisely what they say.  (By the way, I was the lead author of that book, but I can’t claim credit for the chapter that discusses these manuals.  I wish I could!)

This latest is also an interesting though tragic example of the fact that there is a substantial overlap between intelligence operations and war.  Too often we in the West treat these fields of endeavor as separate.  That will be the subject of a future post.

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Published in: on January 5, 2010 at 4:33 AM  Comments (1)  
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  1. Hi Mark:

    You emphasize the need for a close reading of jihadist intelligence manuals. I’d like to make a pitch for a similarly close reading of the theological content of jihadist literature.

    Your comment linking Abu Dujana al-Khorasani with his sahaba namesake is very much the kind of thing I’m thinking of:

    QUOTE: It is ironic, by the way, that the Abu Dujana who lived in the time of the Prophet is famous not only for his courage and martial prowess at the Battle of Uhud (which the Muslims lost) but also for having spared an infidel woman who was on the battlefield. The press has widely reported that a female CIA officer, a mother of three, was killed in the suicide bombing. :UNQUOTE

    What puzzles me about the current Abu Dujan is his use of the nisba “al-Khorasani” when he comes, by all reports, from Jordan. This makes me wonder whether he is claiming membership in the Mahdi’s army, which will march under “black banners” from Khorasan (understood as Afghanistan) to Jerusalem, according to the popular hadith:

    If you see him give him your allegiance, even if you have to crawl over ice, because surely he is the Caliph of Allah, the Mahdi. If you see the black (meaning war) flags coming from Khurasan, join that army, even if you have to crawl over ice, for this is the army of the Caliph, the Mahdi and no one can stop that army until it reaches Jerusalem.

    We could use a better understanding of this hadith and its implications as understood within the varied theologies of jihadism.


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