Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (deceased)

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About Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

Khalid bin Sultan is the eldest son of Crown Prince Sultan. He was born in 1949. He attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the US Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He is also a graduate of the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. After a lengthy tenure in different branches of Saudi Arabia's armed forces, Prince-General Khalid was named Commander of the Joint Forces during Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. He was promoted to Field Marshal by his uncle, King Fahd, after the campaign. Prince Khalid retired in 1991 to concentrate on business. Returning to government service in January 2001, Prince Khalid was appointed the Assistant Defence Minister for Military Affairs. In November 2009, Saudi military forces under bin Sultan intervened in the civil war in neighboring Yemen. His leadership during the recent skirmishes against rebels in the border area with Yemen was marked by a series of tactical blunders. Despite his weak military credentials, Sultan's supporters are insisting that he replace his largely incapacitated father as Defense Minister. Khalid bin Sultan is the head of the Prize Council for the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water, a bi-annual international scientific award for water research. The pan-Arab daily “Al-Hayat,” is owned by Khaled bin Sultan. He actually does not involve himself in the workings of the paper, provided it never criticizes the royal family or SAG policy.

2009 Yemen Bombing

Prince Khalid's announcement on December 23 that major military operations had ended was followed by a Houthi statement that offered withdrawal from all positions on the border in return for a cessation of Saudi attacks. After Prince Khalid's 12/23 announcement of Saudi casualties and his 48-hour ultimatum for the Houthis to withdraw from Al-Jabri, the Houthis released an official statement to Al-Quds Al-Arabi. Muhammad Abd-al-Salam, official spokesman for the Houthis, said: "There is no objection to our withdrawal from the positions in Saudi Arabia on the condition that the Saudis stop the aggression and not allow the use of their territories against us. ... The crux of the problem with the Saudi regime is not the territory or the border but because we faced Yemeni aggression from its territories." In February 2010, Ambassador Smith met with Khalid. The Ambassador noted an apparent Saudi air strike on a building that the U.S. believed to be a Yemeni medical clinic. The Ambassador showed Prince Khaled a satellite image of the bomb-damaged building in question. Upon seeing the photograph, Prince Khalid remarked, "This looks familiar," and added, "if we had the Predator, maybe we would not have this problem." Khalid noted thatRoyal Saudi Air Force operations were necessarily being conducted without the desired degree of precision, and recalled that a clinic had been struck, based on information received from Yemen that it was being used as an operational base by the Houthis. Prince Khalid explained the Saudi approach to its fight with the Houthis, emphasizing that the Saudis had to hit the Houthis very hard in order to "bring them to their knees" and compel them to come to terms with the Yemeni government. "However," he said, "we tried very hard not to hit civilian targets." The Saudis had 130 deaths and the Yemenis lost as many as one thousand. "Obviously," Prince Khaled observed, "some civilians died, though we wish that this did not happen." He further explained that the targets given to the Saudi Air Force were studied and recommended by a Saudi-Yemeni joint committee headed by Saudi and Yemeni general officers. That joint committee reported to him, and no targets were struck unless they had clearance from this joint committee. He mentioned that the Saudis had problems with some of the targeting recommendations received from the Yemeni side. For instance, there was one occasion when Saudi pilots aborted a strike, when they sensed something was wrong about the information they received from the Yemenis. It turned out that the site recommended to be hit was the headquarters of General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, the Yemeni northern area military commander, who is regarded as a political opponent to President Saleh. This incident prompted the Saudis to be more cautious about targeting recommendations from the Yemeni government.

Damaged Reputation

Prince Khalid was pressed to stand down the ground forces because of King Abdullah's growing ire over three particular issues: length of conflict, Saudi casualties, and Saudi military weakness, given the billions invested in modernization over recent decades. Some military officers have speculated that Prince Khalid may have been removed from his position by the King if not for the return and protection of his father Prince Sultan. At minimum, within the Saudi leadership Prince Khalid's reputation as a military leader appears to have been damaged, perhaps ruling him out as an eventual successor to his father as Defense Minister.