The CIA’s RQ-170 “Sentinel” drone captured by the Iranians last week may have gone down in Afghanistan and then transported to Iran by friendly forces on the ground, a former officer in the elite Quds Force branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards told The Daily Caller.
The United States has never acknowledged that the drone was flying over Iranian airspace — only that ground controllers “lost contact” with the drone and that it probably crashed.
However, photographs and video footage released by the Iranians on Dec. 8, several days after they announced the drone’s capture, clearly show that both wings had been neatly severed and then reattached.
“This suggests that the drone landed safely and that its wings were cut off so it could be transported by truck,” the former Quds Force officer said. “I believe it was captured by the Taliban inside Afghanistan and transferred to the Iranians, who then reattached the wings,” he added.
The United States military has long complained that Iran supplies weapons, explosives, and money to the Taliban. The U.S. has identified camps inside Iran where Taliban fighters are trained.
Former U.S. Army intelligence officer Lt. Col Tony Schaeffer told FoxNews on Monday that he believed Iran’s claims that it had interfered with the drone’s command signal and forced it to land inside Iran.
“If it had gone down inside Afghanistan, we should have blasted whoever had taken it before they could have moved it to Iran,” he told TheDC on Tuesday.
The United States lost a drone to insurgents in Iraq in 2007 who managed to overwhelm its digital signal, which was unencrypted. The RQ-170 drone is also believed to have used an unencrypted data link, making Iran’s claims to have brought it down through some form of cyber attack more credible.
A three-way relationship connecting Iran, the Taliban and al-Qaida was in place long before the 9/11 terror attacks, and those connections have become increasingly close in recent years.
In July, the U.S. Treasury Department revealed that Iran has been sheltering al-Qaida’s top operations planner, the man who ultimately took over from 9/11-planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammad.
In a press release that highlighted Iran’s support for al-Qaida, Treasury said that Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, the terror group’s operations commander, had been its “emissary in Iran, a position which allowed him to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of Iranian officials.”
And when U.S. special operations commanders raided Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout in May, the overwhelming majority of captured documents and communications were between Atiyah and bin Laden.
A former senior CIA operations officer told TheDC that most CIA drones are programmed to “return to base” if they lose contact with their controllers, using on-board GPS transponders to guide them.
The fact that the drone crashed — or was guided down by a hostile cyber-attack, as Iran has claimed — proves a malfunction occurred, but not one serious enough to cause major damage during a crash landing.
“It’s unconscionable there wasn’t a self-destruct mechanism on board,” the former CIA operations officer said. “Someone is going to have to be accountable for that. It was a clear oversight.”
Senior Iranian officials have used the drone incident to accuse the United States of waging a broad spectrum intelligence war against their country.
Stephen Hadley, national security advisor to President George W. Bush, buttressed those claims last week, telling the Associated Press that U.S. covert operations underway against Iran were “much bigger than people appreciate.”
President Obama revealed Monday that he has asked Iran to return the drone. “We’ll see how the Iranians respond,” he said.