The USA introduced on Monday that it had killed Ayman al-Zawahri in a drone strike in Afghanistan, ending a 21-year-manhunt for the terrorist chief, who was instrumental within the assaults of Sept. 11, 2001, and who took command of Al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden’s loss of life.
The killing of al-Zawahri, who was one of many world’s most needed and feared terrorists, is taken into account a significant victory for the Biden administration.
However the strike has also raised questions in regards to the terrorist chief’s presence in Afghanistan one yr after President Biden withdrew American forces from the nation, clearing the best way for the Taliban to retake management. Here’s what we all know to this point in regards to the assault, who al-Zawahri was, and the implications of his killing.
What do we all know in regards to the assault?
Al-Zawahri was killed by the C.I.A. in an early-morning drone strike over the weekend within the Afghan capital, Kabul, American officers stated. He was focused at a home within the Sherpur space, a rich downtown neighborhood that when housed dozens of Western embassies and now could be house to some high-ranking Taliban officers.
Mr. Biden, in a nationwide deal with delivered from a balcony on the White Home, stated that he had licensed the strike two days earlier. “Now justice has been delivered and this terrorist chief isn’t any extra,” he stated.
The operation to kill al-Zawahri had been in movement for months. American intelligence companies positioned the protected home the place he was hiding earlier this yr, after intelligence sources realized that his household had moved there. The C.I.A. then tracked his actions till they acquired authorization for the strike, and focused him on a balcony with two Hellfire missiles, officers stated.
American officers stated that no person else was killed within the assault, together with members of his household or any close by civilians. Taliban safety forces have restricted entry to the blast web site and there has not but been impartial affirmation that no civilians had been killed.
Who was Ayman al-Zawahri?
Al-Zawahri, who was killed at 71, was an Egyptian-born physician — a surgeon who had dedicated to violent revolution on the age of 15, when he helped kind a militant cell searching for to overthrow the Egyptian authorities.
He emerged as a grasp of terrorism and was extensively thought-about the architect of the Sept. 11 assaults in opposition to the US in 2001.
Many counterterrorism consultants thought-about him the mental backbone of Al Qaeda. Al-Zawahri was Bin Laden’s private doctor. The lads grew to become allies, pooling their assets to create an instrument of mass homicide to harm Western powers and governments they supported. Al-Zawahri equipped the political acumen and path; bin Laden offered cash, status and charisma.
The legacy of their efforts took an unsure flip 11 years in the past after bin Laden was killed in a raid by a U.S. Navy SEAL group in Pakistan. Many believed Al Qaeda couldn’t survive his absence. However al-Zawahri took up the mantle and managed to maintain collectively the group’s disparate international franchises even with the rise of the Islamic State militant group and as Al Qaeda branches in Yemen and West Africa’s Sahel area exerted extra independence and authority, officers stated.
What was he doing in Afghanistan?
The assault in opposition to al-Zawahri is the primary recognized counterterrorism strike in Afghanistan since Mr. Biden withdrew American forces virtually one yr in the past, practically 20 years after the US invaded the nation to drive Al Qaeda out.
Officers have stated that al-Zawahri had moved again to Afghanistan earlier this yr, after American forces withdrew.
Al-Zawahri was lengthy believed to have been dwelling in Pakistan. His protected haven in Kabul is a sign of Al Qaeda’s continued use of amenities, homes, buildings and compounds between Afghanistan and its neighbor.
Al Qaeda had a robust presence within the nation when the Taliban final dominated it — the important thing motive that the U.S. invaded in 2001, within the wake of the Sept. 11 assaults.
All through a lot of the conflict, Qaeda fighters had been largely seen as battlefield advisers amongst their rebel brethren and consultants at roadside bomb development and suicide assaults.
However some Taliban factions had a better relationship with the terrorist group than others — particularly the Haqqani community, whose senior management aided bin Laden through the Soviet-Afghan conflict.
In his speech on Monday, Mr. Biden stated al-Zawahri’s killing validated his dedication to proceed counterterrorism operations regardless of his determination to take away U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
“I made the choice that after 20 years of conflict, the US now not wanted 1000’s of shoes on the bottom in Afghanistan, to guard America from terrorists who search to do us hurt,” he stated. “And I made a promise to the American those who we might proceed to conduct efficient counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and past. We’ve performed simply that.”
Didn’t the Taliban promise to chop ties with Al Qaeda?
A deal between the US and the Taliban, the Doha Agreement, was signed in February 2020.
The settlement promised the withdrawal of all NATO troops from Afghanistan, conditioned partially on a dedication from the Taliban to maintain teams like Al Qaeda from utilizing Afghanistan as a base for assaults on the West.
Western officers hoped the deal would sever ties between the Taliban and international terrorist networks.
Though the Taliban have stated repeatedly that they had been adhering to the Doha phrases, analysts have warned that teams together with Al Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or the Pakistani Taliban, had discovered refuge in Afghanistan because the Taliban’s takeover final yr.
In June, a United Nations report warned that Al Qaeda had discovered “elevated freedom of motion” in Afghanistan because the Taliban seized energy. The report famous that Al Qaeda leaders had been presumably dwelling in Kabul, and that an uptick in public statements by al-Zawahri instructed that he was in a position to lead extra successfully after the takeover.
Al-Zawahri’s presence in Kabul will solely additional name into query the Taliban’s dedication to their finish of the peace deal.
How have Afghans reacted to the strike?
The Taliban on Tuesday strongly condemned the drone assault, calling it a “violation of worldwide rules and the Doha settlement” however didn’t affirm or reply to the reported killing of al-Zawahri.
“Such actions are a repetition of the failed experiences of the previous years and are in opposition to the pursuits of the usA., Afghanistan and the area,” a prime Taliban official, Zabihullah Mujahid, stated in an announcement.
The assault, in a busy neighborhood, alarmed civilians throughout Kabul, who responded with anger and helplessness. Almost a yr after the Taliban seized power, their nation is on the verge of financial collapse.
“I want we had this energy to defend our nation,” stated Ezatullah, a 29-year-old from Logar Province who had traveled to Kabul to obtain his marriage license and whose full identify is being withheld for safety causes.
“The individuals can’t present any response or anger as a result of they can not say what they wish to and so they have financial issues,” he stated. “Everyone seems to be busy discovering a bit of bread for themselves.”
Munir, 57, who misplaced his job after the Taliban got here to energy and whose full identify can also be being withheld, stated that al-Zawahri’s presence in Kabul was a transparent indication that the Doha Settlement had been damaged.
“The violation of the Doha Settlement is to the detriment of the Afghan individuals; the Afghan individuals are too weak to react to the assaults,” he stated, including that the individuals of Afghanistan “have at all times been victims of overseas and home insurance policies.”
Christina Goldbaum, Yaqoob Akbary and Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.