Sat, Jan 02, 2010 - Page 7 News List

CIA mourns devastating loss in Afghanistan

DEADLY BLOWA suicide attack that killed seven CIA officers showed a new level of sophistication for the Taliban, who infiltrated the very agency tasked with finding them

AFP , WASHINGTON

The CIA on Thursday mourned the loss of seven employees in a suicide attack in Afghanistan, one of the deadliest blows ever for an agency increasingly on the frontlines of US wars.

The CIA lowered the flag to half-mast at its tightly guarded headquarters in the Washington suburbs, but did not release the names of the casualties, who died cloaked in the same anonymity with which they lived.

装our triumphs and even your names may be unknown to your fellow Americans, but your service is deeply appreciated,� US President Barack Obama wrote in a letter to CIA employees.

Obama said that since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the US, 鋳he CIA has been tested as never before.�

斉ecause of your service, plots have been disrupted, American lives have been saved and our allies and partners have been more secure,� Obama said.

He said stars would be added in their name to the 90 already on the Memorial Wall at CIA headquarters honoring spies who have fallen in the line of duty.

While more than 500 US and coalition forces have died in Afghanistan this year, Wednesday旧 suicide attack showed a new level of sophistication for the Taliban, who infiltrated the very agency in charge of finding them.

The CIA said that a Taliban bomber clad as an Afghan soldier managed to penetrate the defenses of a forward base in Khost, a pivotal province near the Pakistan border, detonating an explosives belt in a room described as a gym.

The New York Times said CIA officers at the base had recently begun an aggressive campaign against a militant group run by Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Citing current and former intelligence officials, it said the early indications were that the bomber was brought onto the base as a possible informer and might not have been subjected to rigorous screening.

By all accounts, it was a 苓evastating blow for the spy agency, the deadliest since a 1983 US embassy bombing in Beirut that killed eight CIA officers and decimated the agency旧 operations there. This one took the lives of war-hardened operators who will be difficult to replace, and could undermine confidence at a time when the agency faces rising dangers in the field.

US press reports said the seven dead included the base chief, a mother of three. Six others were wounded, their lives saved by US military doctors and nurses, CIA Director Leon Panetta said.

荘his attack is something that will never be forgotten in Langley, Virginia,� said Jack Rice, a former CIA officer in Afghanistan and talkshow host.

荘he impact can be huge, not just in terms of the capabilities of these particular people, but in the relationships that they themselves have built,� he said.

装ou can急 simply go pick up five or 10 more of these guys. They may be the best guys in the world at what they do and they虐e gone,� Rice said.

The attack comes as the US increasingly relies on the CIA and other covert forces to pursue strategic goals.

CIA and special forces were at the forefront of the US invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, paving the way to overthrow the Taliban旧 extremist regime.

More recently � and controversially � the CIA has been operating unmanned drones that target extremists in lawless areas of Pakistan.

Purported Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said by telephone from an undisclosed location that the Taliban took 遅esponsibility for the attack.�

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