That terrorist was Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al Qaeda leader who was killed in a CIA strike on Saturday. Official US statements do not describe Zawahiri’s death as payback for American losses in Khost, Afghanistan, some 12 years ago. But many former and current intelligence officials say that was exactly the case.
As is standard practice, the CIA has not publicly acknowledged any part in launching the missile that struck Zawahiri, who was standing on his balcony in an apartment building in the Afghan capital, Kabul. But confirmation from Monday The death of a 71-year-old Egyptian sparked an emotional response at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va., as well as among former colleagues, friends and in 2009. to the family members of the dead or injured.
“It’s an incredibly personal moment,” he said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former CIA operations officer who served with several of the five men and two women from the agency who died at Camp Chapman, the CIA base on the outskirts of Khost from which the agency conducted covert missions against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. . In addition to seven CIA officers, a senior Jordanian intelligence officer and an Afghan driver were also killed.
Polymeropoulos described the deaths at Camp Chapman as “the most stark example of the tragic costs of the war on terrorism.”
Many current and former CIA officials noted the news of Zawahiri’s death on social media, where they paid tribute to CIA officers and security team members killed in the Khost attack, the worst attack on the CIA since the bombing of the US embassy that killed eight employees. in Beirut in 1983
“Just remember. They are heroes,” former CIA director and retired general Michael N. Hayden wrote in a Twitter post. In an interview, Hayden recalled working with the two slain officers, Khost base commander Jennifer Matthews and Elizabeth Hanson, and learned of their deaths while at CIA headquarters on the day of the attack.
“I went out to my car and cried,” Hayden said.
CIA Director William J. Burns did not comment on the details of the operation against Zawahiri in response to a request from The Washington Post, but said the events were “very personal for the CIA.”
“The hunt for Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2009 the brutal attack in Khost claimed the lives of seven CIA officers,” Burns said. “While terrorism remains a real challenge, Zawahiri’s removal reduces that threat and provides some measure of justice.”
Zawahiri’s role in the surprisingly complex al-Qaeda operation against the CIA base has been described Book of 2011 also covered in articles and essays on the attack. The central figure was Jordanian Humam al-Balawi, a doctor who got into trouble in his home country for posting pro-Al Qaeda messages on social media. After being interrogated by the Jordanian intelligence service, he was persuaded to become a counter-terrorism informant. Balawi eventually agreed to go to Pakistan to gather information that could help the CIA track down Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.
Disappeared for months in 2009. At the end of the year, Balawi made a startling claim: he had established high-level contacts with the Al-Qaeda militant community hiding in the lawless tribal region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
As proof, Balawi began providing evidence of his communications, including cellphone videos of senior al-Qaeda leaders, to his Jordanian handlers, who passed the information on to the CIA. Jordan’s General Directorate of Intelligence regularly works with its US counterparts to track and disrupt terrorist operations around the world, and the two countries worked closely together on the Balawi case.
in 2009 In late December, the CIA was eager to meet with a Jordanian spy, sensing a potential breakthrough in the agency’s long-dormant hunt for bin Laden and other terrorist leaders behind the 2001 assassination. September 11 attacks, searches. Reluctantly, Balawi agreed to meet at the CIA base in Khost. Then, in a move that ensured an enthusiastic reception from Americans, he mentioned a particularly tantalizing new detail: A doctor was providing medical care to Zawahiri, then al-Qaeda’s No. 1. 2.
Balawi shared vague details about Zawahiri’s physical condition, including various chronic illnesses and scars from long periods of torture in Egyptian prisons. The details matched what the CIA already knew about Zawahiri and appeared to confirm that Balawi did indeed have close ties to the al Qaeda deputy.
The meeting was planned for 2009. on December 30th, and will be attended by many CIA counterterrorism experts. Balawi arrived by car, and because of the extreme sensitivity of the meeting, the CIA delayed any physical search of the informant until he was already on agency premises.
Balawi was indeed on a mission, but his allegiance was to al-Qaeda, not Jordan or the CIA. He hid a bomb of high explosive C4 under his cloak. After reaching the CIA team’s feet, he detonated the device.
The attack led to an extensive investigation and a series of operational changes, including strengthening counterintelligence safeguards. Agency officials could not determine Zawahiri’s full involvement in the 2009 plot. attack on the scale, but at least he allowed himself to be the bait for an elaborate operation that allowed an assassin to infiltrate a highly secure and top-secret CIA facility. current and former officials said.
That is why many in the CIA saw Zawahiri’s death as justice after years of waiting. A copy of the Washington Post article printed on Tuesday was placed on the 2009 the grave of the murdered Khost base commander Matthews. “US kills al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike in Kabul,” read the headline.
The picture was depicted Kristin Wood posted on Twitter on Tuesdaya former CIA officer who worked with Matthews.
“Keep calm sister,” the tweet read.