Al Qaeda expert Abdel Bari Atwan says the alleged killing of Ayman Al Zawahiri was completely unjustified as he wasn’t plotting terror attacks and the Islamic Emirate was not violating the Doha Agreement.
If President Joe Biden thinks assassinating Al Qaeda leader Dr Ayman al-Zawaheri will lift his plummeting popularity ahead of the mid-term elections in October, he is deluded. There is no comparison between the circumstances of the assassination of Al Qaeda’s founding leader Osama Bin-Laden and that of his deputy and successor Al Zawahiri.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the group has reduced its operations and lost much of its momentum, power and cohesion, fragmenting into several distinct groups in several places. The principal concern of the parent organisation’s leadership – both first and second rank – became avoiding capture or assassination by U.S. intelligence agencies, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars tracking them down.
The only account and details of the assassination were released by one side (the U.S.) and purely for propaganda purposes. This has cast much suspicion on their veracity — as was the case with the questionable official accounts of the slayings of Bin Laden, his son Hamza, and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.
The Taliban have not admitted that Al Zawahiri was killed, but only that there was a missile attack on a house in Kabul. Nor has Al Qaeda verifiably announced its leader’s death. There are reports that Zawahiri was ill and may even have died years ago. Others say he is at a secret location in a neighbouring country, thought to be either Pakistan or Iran.
The assertion that Zawahiri was targeted while seated on the balcony of a mansion in an up-market Kabul neighbourhood is hard to believe. He was being hunted down by a posse of U.S. and other intelligence agencies. Would he have been so lax about security to make a habit of sipping his coffee in the open waiting for a drone or missile to take him out? Although anything is possible.
Whatever the case, if the U.S. account turns out to be true, it is likely to have unwelcome consequences. The Taliban or the remnants of Al Qaeda could retaliate for the attack which is a blatant violation of Afghan sovereignty.
Washington also claims Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul violated the Doha Agreement with the Taliban. This is untrue. There is no clear text to that effect. It only stipulates that the Taliban do not allow their country to be used as a base for terrorist activity against the U.S. I don’t think Zawaheri – a septuagenarian in effective retirement – was planning any terrorist operations. Even if he tried to, the Afghan authorities would not allow him. They trust his undertakings to them, based on previous similar cases.
The CIA missile strike on the Afghan capital – regardless of its rationale or the identity of the targeted individual – was an illegal act of aggression against a country under U.S. siege, and the accusation that the Taliban is violating its commitments is false.
The U.S. suffered a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban after its 20 year occupation became too costly to sustain (3,000 dead and tens of thousands injured, and nearly a trillion dollars spent). Its client government imploded and its president fled, and its supporters were left to cling to the wheels of the planes that flew American citizens out of Kabul airport.
Biden hopes hyping up this theatrical stunt can salvage his reputation and presidency after miring in the mud of Afghanistan. He’ll surely fail. And a single retaliatory action by an Al Qaeda supporter on a U.S. target in Afghanistan or elsewhere could sink his presidency for good.
This article first appeared in raialyoum.