Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, is author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism. NRO caught up with him this weekend to get his thoughts on the arrest of al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ:
How big of a deal is it that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was arrested this weekend?
ROBERT BAER: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s arrest is the most important counterterrorist arrest, ever. In all the attacks against American targets in the Seventies and Eighties, we haven’t seen a success like this. Not only can he tell us who paid for 9/11 (a state?), he can tell us where the other cells are, should there indeed be others. Still, the most important is state sponsorship. Maybe Iraq? Maybe Iran? Potentially his interrogation could be history making.
LOPEZ: Are the CIA and FBI to be commended for some reform and reconstitution post-9/11, as evidenced by so many arrests here and abroad?
BAER: The CIA and the FBI deserve big kudos. This is what counterterrorism is about and these guys should be recognized.
LOPEZ:Can we safely view Pakistan as an ally in this? Or is it still more of a trust-but-verify relationship?
BAER: The Pakistanis obviously came through. It’s disturbing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was hiding right under our nose, but still they came through. I’d like to see this continue until we get everyone.
LOPEZ: How close are we to declaring victory over al Qaeda?
BAER: We cannot declare victory over al Qaeda but we’re close. A war against Iraq, though, could set it all back. What worries me is the Khalid Shaikh Mohammeds we don’t know about, or some nightmare alliance between Iranian-backed terrorists and al Qaeda.