WASHINGTON: The United States on Sunday eliminated al-Qaida fugitive and Osama bin Laden successor Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Kabul, the first since its withdrawal from the region, triggering recrimination and infighting among Taliban and its patron Pakistan about who sold him out.
US officials said the Zawahin was hit by two Hellfire missiles as he stepped onto the balcony of a Taliban controlled safe house in Kabul, where he had been living with members of his family after moving there from Pakistan earlier this year In a televised address, US President Joe Biden said “justice has been delivered while repeating the American mantra that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.”
US eyes in the skies and spies on the ground reportedly tracked Zawahiri for weeks to determine his routine and ensure no other family members were killed in the drone strike that was planned over weeks.
Reports of positive identification and confirmation on the ground that it was Zawahiri who was eliminated fueled speculation about continued US assets in the region, in Kabul, and Pakistan’s role in the operation.
Some analysts suggested Zawahini had been “sacrificed” by Pakistan to return to US good books and secure financial aid, including an IMF bailout, pointing to army chief Bajwa’s recent appeal to Washington for financial assistance.
Afghan resistance leader Amrulla Saleh was among those who pointed
out that for much of its history Pak has managed to mitigate its
financial crisis by monetization of threat from Afg & banking on
security interest of the West
Explainer: Who was al-Qaida leader al-Zawahiri-and why did US kill him? Around sunrise on Sunday, Al-Zawahin came outside on the balcony of a house in kabul, Afghanistan and apparently fingered
“When the US took out Bin Laden relations with Pakistan sunk to a new low. With the US taking out Zawahiri and quite possibly with Pakistani assistance, relations with Pakistan may receive one of their biggest boosts in years tweeted Michael Kugelmania South Asia scholar at the Wilsort Center
But other analysts cautioned that it was also possible Zawahiri’s coordinates were sold out by sections of Taliban that is opposed to Pakistan and its proxies in Kabul, and which did not want al-Qaida to return to Afghanistan.
The fugitive al-Qaida leader was reportedly brought to a safe house in Kabul by leaders of the Haqqani network considered a virtual arm of the ISI, and which is now part of the primitive ruling clique in
Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the network’s founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, is the current Interior Minister for the Taliban government, which is known to be riven with factions.
In a statement, the Taliban government condemned the drone attack “in the strongest possible terms and considers it a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement. But the US State Department shot back saying it was the Taliban that had violated its pledge in the Doha agreement not to allow terrorist groups to operate within their territory and to break all relations with those groups.
It will take some tirne for the smoke to lift and the mirrors to straighten, but for now it is certain Washington has eliminated one of
In a statement, the Taliban government condemned the drone attack “in the strongest possible terms and considers it a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement.” But the US State Department shot back saying it was the Taliban that had violated its pledge in the Doha agreement not to allow terrorist groups to operate within their territory and to break all relations with those groups.
It will take some time for the smoke to lift and the mirrors to straighten, but for now it is certain Washington has eliminated one of last al-Qaida terrorists– but not the miasma of mistrust in the region.
Asked Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show whether al-Zawahiri was planning attacks against U.S. interests, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said: “We do believe he was playing an active role at a strategic level and directing Al Qaeda and continuing to pose a severe threat against the United States and American citizens everywhere.”
On July 25, Biden again convened relevant cabinet officials and aides. He was briefed about a potential operation by this broader group of national security officials in the Situation Room.
The president wanted to understand more about the layout of safe house, officials said, and how a strike on al-Zawahiri inside Afghanistan might affect the U.S. relationship with Taliban. Biden specifically pressed them about how a strike inside the country could affect his administration’s effort to relocate Afghans who had helped the U.S. during the Afghanistan war.
At the end of the meeting, Biden authorized the airstrike, which all of his national security team had recommended.
His signoff allowed intelligence officials to take out al Zawahiri when they determined the time was optimal.
Al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike at 6:18 a.m. local time Saturday, or shortly before 10 p.m. Friday night in Washington.
Two Hellfire missiles were fired at al-Zawahiri while he was on the balcony of the safe house, the official said, adding that no civilians or relatives of al-Zawahiri were killed. The Haqqani Taliban whisked the family away after the attack, the official said.
In his address Monday evening, Biden described al-Zawahiri as a “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks and said he also played a key role in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
“He carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens, American service members, American diplomats and American interests,” Biden said.
The Associated Press first reported that al-Zawahiri was killed in the operation.
Al-Zawahiri’s death comes almost a year after the U.S. completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending the nearly 20-year war in the country following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Biden was heavily criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as foreign allies, for his handling of the withdrawal, which involved the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and hundreds of civilians as the Taliban quickly toppled the Western-backed government and took control of the country.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement Monday that while Biden “deserves credit for approving this strike,” it also shows that “Afghanistan is again becoming a major thicket of terrorist activity following the President’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces.”
The Taliban was not warned ahead of the strike, the Biden administration official said Monday, adding that al-Zawahiri’s presence in the country was a violation of the Doha Agreement, which the U.S. and the Taliban signed in 2020.