Good Riddance: The Elimination of al-Qaeda’s High Terrorist and the Troubling Questions It Raises  

Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy and a mastermind behind the 9/11 assaults, has been killed in a U.S. drone strike.

The excellent news is that one of many world’s most infamous terrorists is lifeless. The unhealthy information is that, one yr after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Zawahri’s presence within the capital of Kabul confirms fears that the nation once more would turn into a secure haven for worldwide terrorists. 

For over 20 years, the U.S. authorities unsuccessfully hunted Zawahri who, like bin Laden, was believed to be in hiding someplace in Pakistan.

Earlier this yr, intelligence revealed Zawahri’s household had moved to a fancy neighborhood inside Kabul as soon as utilized by international diplomats. Zawahri later was confirmed to be residing on the premises.   

When a chance offered itself, the Biden administration accepted a CIA operation to strike Zawahri on July 30, seemingly with two specialised drone-launched Hellfire missiles. A CIA staff on the bottom reportedly confirmed Zawahri was the one individual killed within the strike.   

The Taliban denounced the strike, claiming it violated the Doha Settlement that the terrorist group signed with the U.S. to set the phrases for the U.S. withdrawal.

After all, in that very same settlement the Taliban pledged to “stop any group or particular person in Afghanistan from threatening the safety of the U.S. and its allies, and can stop them from recruiting, coaching, and fundraising, and is not going to host them.” (Emphasis added.)

In accordance with a White Home background briefing, senior Taliban figures have been conscious of Zawahri’s presence in Kabul.   

Eliminating one of many world’s most needed terrorists in an operation with no civilian casualties was an unmitigated victory for the U.S. However the operation—and Zawahri’s presence in Kabul—raises necessary questions.

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Probably the most fascinating questions relate to the logistics of the operation and the sources of intelligence: Who tipped off the CIA as to Zawahri’s whereabouts? Extra fascinating, whose airspace was transited to get the drone in place for a strike?

Islamabad insists the Pakistani authorities was not consulted. Was Pakistani airspace used with out the federal government’s permission? Was a secret deal lower? Or did the drone strategy through one of many Central Asian nations with or with out their permission? 

>>> Bonus Podcast: Hear Jeff Smith’s Evaluation of Zawahri’s Demise

The much more regarding questions relate to Zawahri’s presence in Kabul, and the nexus between al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Haqqani community. When the Taliban marched on Kabul final August, it was rapidly evident that the Haqqani community—a hyperviolent terrorist group that predated and later merged with the Taliban—had emerged as the best victor of the Afghan battle.

Outmaneuvering the standard Afghan Taliban management, Haqqani community chief Sirajuddin Haqqani (son of the group’s notorious founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani) assumed management over inner safety in Afghanistan and appointed different Haqqani community leaders to senior posts within the new authorities.   

This was unhealthy information. All through the course of the Afghanistan Battle, the Haqqani community was implicated within the bloodiest and most high-profile terrorist assaults on U.S. and Afghan authorities targets.

The Haqqani community can also be a popular militant group of Pakistan’s Inter-Providers Intelligence company. Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers, referred to as the Haqqani community a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence and former Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., publicly claimed that the Haqqanis obtain safety and medical care inside Pakistan.

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The Haqqani community was the primary Afghan militant group to embrace suicide bombings and was implicated within the single deadliest assault on the CIA within the group’s historical past, in addition to a number of assaults on the U.S. and Indian embassies in Afghanistan and a world lodge in Kabul.

After assuming operational management of the Haqqani community from his ailing father within the mid-2000s, Sirajuddin printed a manifesto advocating international jihad outdoors Afghanistan’s borders. The Haqqani community ostensibly was overseeing safety within the Afghan capital in August 2021 when a suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. army service members and over 170 Afghan civilians on the Kabul airport in the course of the rushed U.S. withdrawal.   

Now, take a guess the place Ayman al-Zawahri was residing in Kabul? He was in a visitor home owned by Sirajuddin Haqqani.

This was foreseeable. Within the Eighties, Jalaluddin Haqqani was a key determine in recruiting Arab militants from the Persian Gulf to hitch the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda’s first coaching camp was established in Haqqani community territory in Pakistan.   

That is why I used to be deeply involved about the opportunity of an al-Qaeda resurgence after the Taliban-Haqqani takeover of Kabul final August.

In an article I printed in November in Battle on the Rocks, I reviewed how nearly each unbiased evaluation—together with from the U.S. authorities, the United Nations Safety Council, and unbiased researchers at Stanford—had all concluded that the Taliban, and particularly the Haqqani community, maintained sturdy and rising hyperlinks to al-Qaeda. It was, I wrote, “extremely unlikely they are going to lower ties.”

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In 2020, the U.S. Treasury Division concluded that al-Qaeda and the Haqqanis have been discussing forming joint items of armed militants. The next yr, a U.N. report described the Haqqanis as a “the first liaison between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”  

In August 2021, President Joe Biden peculiarly claimed that al-Qaeda was “gone” from Afghanistan. However two months later, a senior Biden administration official testified earlier than Congress that not solely was al-Qaeda nonetheless in Afghanistan, it had the desire and was producing the aptitude to conduct terrorist assaults on the U.S. and its pursuits overseas. 

Once more, the excellent news is that the strike killing Zawahri demonstrated that the U.S.—even after a full withdrawal from Afghanistan, even with Pakistan-U.S. relations in a dysfunctional state, even with out formal overflight preparations with neighboring nations—nonetheless enjoys the aptitude to strike high-value targets in Afghanistan, thanks largely to the tireless work of the U.S. intelligence group.   

The unhealthy information is that the Taliban faction governing Afghanistan right now is much more operationally and ideologically aligned with al-Qaeda than the outdated Afghan Taliban management.

The presence of the person who was arguably the world’s most infamous terrorist in a Haqqani-owned safehouse in Kabul solely confirms fears that Afghanistan could but once more turn into a secure haven for worldwide terrorists.  

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