al Qaeda’s Chief Is Useless. Now What?

President Joe Biden introduced Monday that america had killed al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahri in a drone strike over the weekend.

Zawahri, who was an Egyptian physician, changed Osama bin Laden after he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALS in Could 2011. He was listed because the FBI’s “Most Needed Terrorist” and helped to plan the September 11 terrorist assaults.

“Zawahri has been a high-level goal of america, one of the needed individuals on the earth for over 20 years,” Jeff Smith, a analysis fellow within the Asian Research Heart at The Heritage Basis, says. (The Each day Sign is Heritage’s multimedia information group.)

Smith joins a bonus episode of “The Each day Sign Podcast” to debate the importance of Zawahri’s dying, the way forward for al-Qaeda, who may change him, and counterterrorism operations within the Center East.

Hearken to the podcast beneath or learn the frivolously edited transcript:

Samantha Renck: Becoming a member of the podcast at this time is Jeff Smith. He’s a analysis fellow right here at The Heritage Basis’s Asian Research Heart. Jeff, thanks a lot for becoming a member of me at this time. 

Jeff Smith: It’s nice to be with you.

Renck: Now, President Joe Biden introduced Monday that america had killed al-Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahri in a drone strike July 30, ending a 21-year manhunt. So, in the beginning, Jeff, who precisely was Zawahri and what’s the significance of his dying? 

Smith: Properly, he was extensively thought of to be Osama bin Laden’s deputy and was then al-Qaeda’s quantity two in command and accountable, frankly, for the planning and operation of the 911 terrorist assaults. So Zawahri has been a high-level goal of america, one of the needed individuals on the earth for over 20 years. His terrorist actions predated 911, and he’s an informed Egyptian who went on to affix the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan alongside bin Laden and the 2 step by step developed al-Qaeda into one of many world’s most infamous terrorist outfits.

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Zawahri has since been hiding, doubtless someplace within Pakistan, releasing movies periodically, urging international jihad, you understand, expressing extremist sentiments. And U.S. intelligence caught wind that Zawahri’s household had moved into Afghanistan within the capital, Kabul, earlier this yr and later confirmed that he was additionally on the premises. And once they discovered a chance to strike, they took it. 

Renck: And now what’s the way forward for al-Qaeda? Is there somebody who’s subsequent in line to primarily change him?

Smith: There’s at all times a subsequent in line. Al-Qaeda does proceed to take pleasure in some affect each within the [Afghanistan-Pakistan] area and globally. However actually, it’s develop into a part of this broader combination of terrorist teams that function within the area, alongside of the Taliban, alongside of the Haqqani community, each of which at the moment are in charge of Afghanistan, each of that are aligned with al-Qaeda. You even have factions of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, that are aligned with this nexus, they usually form of are all in some methods built-in with each other.

And so I might say the capabilities of al-Qaeda central have definitely been downgraded since 911 by an exhaustive drone marketing campaign in Afghanistan, in Pakistan’s tribal areas. We’ve form of whittled away their management and far of their rank and file, however they do proceed to function inside this broader nexus of terrorist teams. And the larger concern, frankly, is that because the withdrawal from Afghanistan below the Biden administration, the Taliban and Haqqani community now working Afghanistan, the priority is that they’re going to supply a extra permissive atmosphere to al-Qaeda and these different worldwide terrorist teams.

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And the presence of Zawahri in a complicated neighborhood within the Afghan capital, dwelling in a guesthouse run by Siraj Haqqani, who’s a significant Taliban chief, means that these fears have been right, and it’s already evident that they’re offering house for al Qaeda to function. So this can be a very regarding pattern. 

Renck: And talking of the autumn of Afghanistan, and we’re arising on that one yr of the Taliban takeover there, what do you assume is the way forward for counterterrorism ops within the Center East given Iran’s rising aggression and in addition the Afghanistan withdrawal?

Smith:  I suppose in a means that we received some excellent news and a few unhealthy information out of this operation. And the excellent news is that we’re nonetheless able to launching airstrikes within Afghanistan. And one of many questions, frankly, many people have is how precisely was this operation carried out? Was Pakistan used both as a launching pad or or did we use its airspace? And in that case, did now we have its permission to take action, or did we launch the raid with out its permission?

You may recall that we launched a raid towards Osama bin Laden, discovered inside Pakistan lower than a mile from a premier Pakistani navy academy. We launched that operation into Pakistan with out their permission.

On this case, it’s additionally attainable the drone flew in by Central Asian nations. The purpose is, although, that we do have restricted entry now after withdrawing; we don’t have almost as many boots on the bottom. Eyes on the bottom and methods to launch a majority of these operations. However clearly we do keep some functionality. Whether or not that functionality is sufficient to match the doubtless rising risk of terrorism coming from Afghanistan is is a special story. And we’re going to have to search out new preparations sooner or later to do these counterterrorism operations.

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One in all my largest points with the Afghanistan Battle was that we form of allowed Pakistan to play this double recreation the place they allow us to use their territory and airspace. However the whole time they have been supporting, defending and defending the Taliban and al-Qaeda. So now we have to keep away from stepping into the same sort of association the place we’re form of perpetuating the long run downside. 

Renck: Properly, Jeff, these are all of the questions that I’ve for you. Thanks a lot for becoming a member of the podcast at this time. Once more, becoming a member of us at this time was Jeff Smith of the Asian Research Heart right here at The Heritage Basis. Thanks once more. 

Smith: Thanks. 

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