Terrorism experts quickly downplayed Democrat President Joe Biden‘s attempts to count the CIA’s killing of Al Qaeda Ayman Al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan as a win for his administration, noting the fact that Al-Zawahiri was in Afghanistan at all means that the terrorist group has returned to the country where they planned the 9/11 attacks.
During the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan last year, Biden declared that Al Qaeda was “gone” from Afghanistan.
On Monday night, Biden declared that “justice has been delivered” and that he would hunt down and kill anyone who was a threat to the U.S.
However, terrorism and national security experts quickly pumped the brakes on celebrating Al-Zawahiri’s death as a major win because of what it meant: Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan.
“The killing of Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri will be sold as a counterterrorism success. But that narrative masks the undeniable truth that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is a safe have for Al Qaeda,” Bill Roggio, terrorism analyst at the Long War Journal, tweeted. “The strike that killed Zawahiri is the first since the U.S withdrawal 1+ months ago. The U.S. saved best for first, and made the first counterterrorism strike count.”
“Zawahiri was killed in the Sherpur neighborhood, in a home run by a deputy of Sirajuddin Haqqani. Sirajuddin is of course one of two deputy Taliban emirs as well as the interior minister,” he continued. “Zawahiri could not operate in Afghanistan – particularly in Kabul – without the consent of the Taliban. He wasn’t in the remote mountains of Kunar, Nuristan, or Nangarhar, or distant provinces of Ghazni, Helmand, or Kandahar. He was in the Taliban’s capital.”
Max Abrahms, an International security professor, said that killing Al Zawahiri was not “the categorical win Biden says.”
“The Taliban was supposed to prevent Al Qaeda leaders from hiding out there for goodness sake,” Abrahms added.
Taking out #Zawahiri isn’t the categorical win Biden says. The Taliban was supposed to prevent Al Qaeda leaders from hiding out there for goodness sake.
— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) August 1, 2022
Rita Katz, Director of SITE Intelligence Group, noted: “That Zawahiri, after years of hiding and immense OPSEC, was killed on a balcony in a wealthy downtown neighborhood of Kabul–it just shows what a drastic sense of empowerment al-Qaeda leadership has felt under Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.”
“There was a reason that Ayman al-Zawahiri was in Kabul,” said Tim Kennedy, a former special forces operator. “Serving as the #2 to Bin Laden in al Qaeda he took advantage of our failed evacuation of Afghanistan and the power vacuum. It is a safe haven for terrorists all around the world. This is a byproduct of what we created.”
There was a reason that Ayman al-Zawahiri was in Kabul. Serving as the #2 to Bin Laden in al Qaeda he took advantage of our failed evacuation of Afghanistan and the power vacuum. It is a safe haven for terrorists all around the world. This is a byproduct of what we created.
— Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) August 2, 2022