By Jeff Stein
Washington Post | January 18, 2011
Mullah Omar, the elusive, one-eyed leader of the Afghan Taliban, had a heart attack Jan. 7 and was treated for several days in a Karachi hospital with the help of Pakistan's spy agency, according to a private intelligence network run by former CIA, State Department and military officers.
The intelligence network, operating under the auspices of a private company, “The Eclipse Group,” said its source was a physician in the Karachi hospital, which was not identified in the report, who said he saw Omar struggling to recover from an operation to put a stent in his heart.
“While I was not personally in the operating theater,” the physician reported, “my evaluation based on what I have heard and seeing the patient in the hospital is that Mullah Omar had a cardiac catheter complication resulting in either bleeding or a small cerebral vascular incident, or both.”
U.S. officials said they could not immediately verify the report. A spokesman at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
"No one on this end has heard this," said a U.S. official from Kabul. "It doesn't mean it's not true -- we just have no information to confirm or dispute these facts."
The report also said Omar was “rushed” to the hospital on Jan. 7 by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
“The ISI rushed him to a hospital in Karachi, where he was given heparin [an anticoagulant] and operated on,” the Eclipse report said. “After 3-4 days of post-operative care in the hospital, he was released to the ISI and ordered to take absolute bed rest when at home for at least several days.”
The physician who was the source for the report said that, “After the operation, there seemed to be some brain damage with Mullah Omar having slurred speech. His post hospital course is consistent with this type of outcome,” the physician added. “Three-four days in hospital is consistent with cardiac catheterization and or cardiac stent placement. Bed rest and aphasia [difficulty speaking] post-catheterization could be from a bleeding complication.”
Citing a separate source in the Quetta shura, the Taliban governing council on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, the Eclipse report said “Mullah Omar is continuing to improve and his speech is clearing.”
It also said the ISI was keeping the Quetta shura “informed” about Omar’s recovery at “an ISI ‘guest house’ in Karachi under ISI guard.”
The Eclipse Group is run by Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, a former head of the CIA's Latin American operations who was the first chief of the CIA's counterterrorism center; Kim Stevens, a retired U.S. diplomat who served in Bolivia and Italy; and Brad A. Patty, a former U.S. Army Special Forces information operations specialist in Iraq.
The Eclipse Group’s reports are available “by invitation only” on its Web site, Stevens said.
By all appearances, the Eclipse network is the just the latest iteration of a shadowy, Pentagon-backed operation that began contracting with former CIA and military operatives to supply intelligence in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009. Amid adverse publicity last year, the Pentagon supposedly cut off its funding.
Stevens declined to discuss The Eclipse Group’s financing, except to say it has “no DoD clients …”
“Our customer list is proprietary information, but it is more than 20 and less than 50, including several European intelligence services,” he added.