Statement on CIA Casualties in Afghanistan
December 31, 2009
CIA Director Leon E. Panetta informed the Agency workforce today that seven of their colleagues were killed and six others were injured on Wednesday at a Forward Operating Base in Khost Province, Afghanistan. The casualties were the result of a terrorist attack.
“Those who fell yesterday were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism,” Director Panetta said in a message to employees. “We owe them our deepest gratitude, and we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives—a safer America.”
“Families have been our Agency’s first priority,” Director Panetta added. “Before sharing this information with anyone else, we wanted to be in contact with each of them. This is the most difficult news to bear under any circumstances, but that it comes during the holidays makes it even harder. In coming days and weeks, we will comfort them and honor their loved ones as a family. They are in our thoughts and prayers—now and always.”
Due to the sensitivity of their mission and other ongoing operations, neither the names of those killed nor the details of their work are being released at this time.
“Yesterday’s tragedy reminds us that the men and women of the CIA put their lives at risk every day to protect this nation,” Director Panetta said. “Throughout our history, the reality is that those who make a real difference often face real danger.”
Director Panetta credited US military doctors and nurses with saving the lives of those wounded in the attack. In honor and memory of the dead, he requested that the flags at CIA Headquarters be flown at half-staff.
Today President Barack Obama sent the following letter to the officers of CIA:
December 31, 2009
To the men and women of the CIA:
I write to mark a sad occasion in the history of the CIA and our country. Yesterday, seven Americans in Afghanistan gave their lives in service to their country. Michelle and I have their families, friends and colleagues in our thoughts and prayers.
These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life. The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA. You have helped us understand the world as it is, and taken great risks to protect our country. You have served in the shadows, and your sacrifices have sometimes been unknown to your fellow citizens, your friends, and even your families.
In recent years, the CIA has been tested as never before. Since our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, you have served on the frontlines in directly confronting the dangers of the 21st century. Because of your service, plots have been disrupted, American lives have been saved, and our Allies and partners have been more secure. Your triumphs and even your names may be unknown to your fellow Americans, but your service is deeply appreciated. Indeed, I know firsthand the excellent quality of your work because I rely on it every day.
The men and women who gave their lives in Afghanistan did their duty with courage, honor and excellence, and we must draw strength from the example of their sacrifice. They will take their place on the Memorial Wall at Langley alongside so many other heroes who gave their lives on behalf of their country. And they will live on in the hearts of those who loved them, and in the freedom that they gave their lives to defend.
May God bless the memory of those we lost, and may God bless the United States of America.
President Barack Obama