CIA exposes model of slain al-Qaeda leader’s house

The CIA on Saturday presented a mock-up of a safe house in which it briefed US President Joe Biden on the whereabouts of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, before the agency killed him during of a drone strike in Afghanistan.

Shortly after al-Zawahari’s death, White House officials released a photo showing Biden conversing with CIA Director William Burns in front of a closed wooden box at a table in front of him.

Now the contents of the box – a model showing a white-walled house with at least five floors and three partially blacked-out balconies – is on display at the CIA Museum at agency headquarters in Virginia.

The museum is closed to the public and usually only agency employees and guests are allowed entry. The CIA allowed journalists to tour the museum, which was renovated for the agency’s 75th anniversary, as part of a larger effort to showcase its history and accomplishments.

It took years, if not decades, for most of the materials on display to be declassified. The model of al-Zawahari’s house is a rare piece used by intelligence officials weeks before the attack.

Al-Zawahri was killed in late July, nearly a year after the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, ending a two-decade war in which the CIA had played a central role. The agency sent in the first US forces two weeks after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Two decades later, it withdrew its intelligence operatives and assisted in the chaotic evacuation of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies .

The Biden administration said the attack shows what the agency describes as an “over the horizon” counterterrorism capability in Afghanistan. Government critics and some analysts question whether al-Zawahri’s presence in the Kabul neighborhood is a sign that extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State have grown stronger under the now-ruling Taliban regime. the country.

Seven stars on display near models of al-Zawahari’s house pay tribute to CIA employees killed in Khost. Previously, the stars were part of a monument in Afghanistan that was demolished when the United States withdrew.

Other newly revealed artifacts include concept sketches for a fake movie made as part of a 1980s operation to rescue American diplomats from Iran, the subject of the 2012 film “Argo” starring Ben Affleck. There are also crew uniforms and other items from the Glomar Explorer. The Howard Hughes-built ship that served as cover for a 1970s mission to surface a Soviet submarine carrying nuclear ballistic missiles. (A Los Angeles Times front-page article highlighting the operation is reproduced on a wall of a nearby museum.)

The museum also includes a look at the agency’s darkest times, including its role in possible false claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction prior to the 2003 US invasion, as well as exhibits and executions of several prominent spies. has been. in the Soviet Union.

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