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When the U.S. forces were pulled from Afghanistan during the period between April-September, 2021, fears grew that terrorists in that region would gain strength in their initiatives to attack the U.S.
The terrorist group al-Qaida is a multinational militant Sunni Islamic extremist network founded in 1988 by Osama Bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam with other Arab volunteers.
Bin Laden led the group during the September 11, 2001 attack on the U.S. resulting in the devastation of the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and on United Airlines flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
After that attack, Bin Laden was hunted and killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan on May 2, 2011.
It was thought that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan would deter such attacks on American soil, with military presence close by, but a deal to reduce troops ending in, eventually, a complete withdrawal from the region was negotiated by the Trump Administration, conditional on the Taliban keeping its commitments to the U.S. concerning peace and terrorists.
But it seems the agreement was broken, and the U.S. has taken action.
The U.S. launched a drone strike in Afghanistan this past weekend, the target being al-Qaida’s current top leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
al-Zawahiri was also crucial to the planning of the attacks on the U.S. in 2011.
His leadership was considered competent as a terrorist mastermind.
The U.S. had been pursuing the terrorist leader for more than two decades.
This was the first high-profile attack in Afghanistan by the U.S. since troops were withdrawn in August of 2021.
An anonymous official told Reuters:
“For several years, the U.S. government had been aware of a network that it assessed supported Zawahiri, and over the past year, following the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan, officials had been watching for indications of Al Qaeda’s presence in the country.”
A crucial factor is that the area of the safe house was in close proximity to members of the Taliban government, and intelligence reported a relationship between the al-Qaida leader and the Taliban.
“U.S. officials said they learned earlier this year that al-Zawahiri’s family moved into a safe house in an upscale neighborhood of Sherpur, a diplomatic area that many Taliban leaders now call home,” an NPR report stated.
Zawahiri’s safe house was reportedly near where the US embassy used to be located, an area familiar to U.S. intelligence.
On Monday President Biden said US intelligence had located Zawahiri earlier this year and that he recently moved to the location in downtown Kabul.
Surveillance of the house enabled the U.S. to carry out the drone strike in precision with two missiles when al-Zawahiri was on the balcony of the home, according to two U.S. officials.
The officials did not say where they launched the drone, but the U.S. no longer has any military bases in the immediate region which suggests the aircraft may have flown a long distance before reaching its target.
“The strike was carried out by a CIA-operated Air Force drone and occurred at 6:18 am as Zahwiri stood alone on his balcony,” Politico reported.
John Kirby, White House Coordinator for Strategic Communications told Morning Edition in an interview, “We said a year ago that we knew al-Qaida was starting to move back, in small numbers, to Afghanistan. We were honest about that. We also said that the plan isn’t to hit every single al-Qaida terrorist with a missile, it’s to make sure that we are defeating those threats to our homeland, to the American people. Mr. Zawahiri presented that kind of thread and that’s why we took him out.”
It is common in the past for civilians to also be killed in drone strikes, but Biden said none were harmed, and there have been no reports from the Taliban of civilian casualties.
However, the Taliban have condemned the US drone strike and said it violated the Doha agreement.
Countering the accusation, the US said Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul meant the Taliban didn’t live up to the deal, essentially saying the Taliban violated the agreement first.
President Biden announced the drone strike on Monday, and after that announcement, an administration official told reporters that US intelligence had “high confidence” that the person who was killed in the strike was Zawahiri.
The Taliban account of the strike matches the US account, although they have not confirmed that it was Zawahiri who was killed reported Zero Hedge.
The White House said on Tuesday that it has no DNA confirmation that al-Qaeda’s top leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike in Kabul over the weekend and said it had confirmed his death by other means.
“We do not have DNA confirmation. We’re not going to get that confirmation. Quite frankly, based on multiple sources and methods that we’ve gathered information from, we don’t need it,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN.
“We have visual confirmation, but we also have confirmation through other sources,” Kirby added.