President Joe Biden said Monday that the United States killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike. “I authorized a precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield, once and for all,” Biden said. Zawahiri, who just turned 71 years old, had remained a visible international symbol of the group, 11 years after Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces. At one point he acted as bin Laden’s personal physician.
The United States conducted a drone strike on Saturday night against al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was sheltering downtown in Kabul to reunite with his family, Vice President Joe Biden said on Monday. The strike, authorized by Biden after weeks of meetings with his Cabinet and key advisers, used two Hellfire missiles to kill Zawahiri. Senior Haqqani network figures were aware of Zawahiri’s presence in the area and took steps to conceal him after the strike, restricting access to the safe house and rapidly relocating members of his family, including his daughter and her children, who were not targeted during the strike and remained unharmed. The US did not alert Taliban officials ahead of Saturday’s strike.
On July 31, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tweeted that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan “strongly condemns the attack on any pretext and calls it a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement.” Prior to CNN reporting Zawahiri’s death, Mujahid had tweeted that an air strike was carried out on a residential house in Sherpur area of Kabul city. The nature of the incident was not apparent at first but security and intelligence services for the Islamic Emirate investigated the incident and initial findings determined that it was carried out by an American drone.
‘Justice has been delivered’
Biden, who was kept abreast of the strike against Zawahiri as he isolated with a rebound case of Covid-19, spoke outdoors Monday from the Blue Room Balcony at the White House. Zawahiri, Biden said, “was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11, one of the most responsible for the attacks that murdered 2,977 people on American soil. For decades, he was the mastermind of attacks against Americans.” “Now, justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more. People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer,” he continued. “The United States continues to demonstrate its resolve and its capacity to defend Americans against those who seek to do us harm. We make it clear again tonight that if you are a threat to our people or if you threaten our allies anywhere in the world we will find you and take you out.”
The precision strike targeting Bin Laden was the result of the “extraordinary persistence and skill” of the nation’s intelligence community, according to President Obama. Biden said: “Our intelligence community located Zawahiri earlier this year — he moved to downtown Kabul to reunite with members of his immediate family.” The strike comes one year after Biden ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, prompting Taliban forces to rapidly seize control of the nation. Biden said on Monday that when he withdrew US troops from the country, he “made the decision that after 20 years of war, the United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm.”
Biden told reporters that Zawahiri will not be able to allow Afghanistan to become a terrorist safe haven again, because he is dead and the administration hopes that his death will bring some measure of closure to the friends and families of 9/11 victims. President Obama expressed gratitude to US intelligence and counterterrorism communities for their pursuit of al-Qaeda leaders and said that their efforts show that America will always remain vigilant and take action when necessary. He concluded by saying that he hopes Zawahiri’s death will bring some measure of closure to the friends and families of 9/11 victims.