The CIA Does Not Like to Talk About Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) is the number two Al Qaeda operative after Ayman al-Zawahiri. As the 9/11 mastermind, KSM has at times played a major role in Al Qaeda operations. He’s been accused of killing innocent people, as well as assisting with planning the successful attack on the USS Cole.
In the video released by Al Qaeda in March of this year, it was revealed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had admitted to having a role in planning and executing the attack on the USS Cole. Mohammed also acknowledged having killed two men he had met in prison: an American and a British citizen. As such, the video was quite shocking.
What makes this story even more intriguing is that KSM was at one time thought to be dead. US officials believed they knew where he was and were tracking his movements, but when he disappeared, so did US intelligence agencies. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had provided US authorities with clues as to his whereabouts, but when he reappeared, he was hiding in Pakistan.
But, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed never really disappeared. He would remain a prominent figure in Al Qaeda’s network. While Al Qaeda has only existed for five years, KSM had been in the group a long time. He had come a long way from being just a figurehead for the first World Trade Center attack.
The breakaway group known as Al Qaeda in Iraq had some of KSM’s training and had been taken under his wing. Al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), was actually an Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda. The idea was that Al Qaeda in Iraq would then become part of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, where its roots are deep.
But, the reality is that KSM’s group in Iraq grew further apart from its predecessor. Al Qaeda in Iraq used this as an opportunity to recruit much more fighters and began operating independently of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. This, in turn, was bad news for AQI itself.
And, by 1997, Al Qaeda in Iraq had split apart, and what we now know as Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was founded, led, and controlled by a group of Pakistani militants. A lot of its leadership is based in Pakistan.
KSM was one of the key figures in setting up Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but he was not its founder. He was only a figurehead until the splintering of the original group, which ultimately formed Al Qaeda in Iraq, and then moved on to form AQI.