An analysis of the slain al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri , who evaded US arrest for 21 years after a suicide bombing that changed America’s relationship with the rest of the world in many ways.
WASHINGTON: Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan this weekend. Osama bin Laden was one of the chief planners of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and helped sustain and expand al-Qaeda in the years that followed.
By finding and striking al-Zawahiri, President Joe Biden said, the United States is ensuring that Afghanistan under the Taliban will never again be a base for attacks on other parts of the world, as it was in 2001.
An analysis of the al-Qaeda leader, who deceived the United States for 21 years after a suicide bombing that in many ways changed America’s relationship with the rest of the world.
Who was Ayman al-Zawahiri?
Americans may not remember the name of al-Zawahiri, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, but many do remember his face, a bespectacled man with a slight smile, always seen in photos alongside bin Laden for more than two decades. Organized strikes in the United States.
An Egyptian, al-Zawahiri was born on June 19, 1951, into a comfortable family in the suburbs of Cairo.
Observant of religious rules since childhood, he included himself in a violent wing of a Sunni Islamic revival that sought to replace the governments of Egypt and other Arab countries with a strict interpretation of Islamic rule.
As a young adult, Al-Zawahiri worked as an eye surgeon, but he also traveled to Central Asia and the Middle East, witnessing the Afghans’ war against Soviet occupiers and meeting young Saudi Osama bin Laden and other Arab militants to help oust Afghanistan. Soldiers from the USSR
He was among hundreds of militants imprisoned and tortured in Egyptian prisons following the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat by Islamic fundamentalists in 1981. According to his biographers, the experience radicalized him. Al-Zawahiri was present when bin Laden founded al-Qaeda seven years later.
Al-Zawahiri merged his Egyptian militant organization with al-Qaeda. He brought al-Qaeda’s skills and underground experience to Egypt, allowing al-Qaeda to organize cells of followers and carry out attacks all over the world.
Why was al-Zawahiri important?
After years of quietly working to fund, fund and plan the September 11 attacks, Zawahiri and his lieutenants ensured that al-Qaeda survived a global campaign to strike again.
On the run after 9/11, al-Zawahiri rebuilt al-Qaeda’s leadership in the Afghan-Pakistan border region and was the top leader of branches in Iraq, Asia, Yemen and beyond.
Aiming at enemies near and far, al-Qaeda has carried out uninterrupted attacks in the years since 9/11: in Bali, Mombasa, Riyadh, Jakarta, Istanbul, Madrid, London and many more.
The 2005 London attack that killed 52 people was al-Qaeda’s last devastating attack in the West, as drone strikes, counterterrorism operations, and missiles launched through the United States and other al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters killed and crippled parts of the network.
How was he killed?
At sunrise on Sunday, al-Zawahiri was assassinated while on the balcony of a home in Kabul, Afghanistan.
He was apparently outside on the balcony, according to US intelligence. On this day, a US drone fired two Hellfire missiles at the al-Qaeda leader as he stood.
His presence in Afghanistan was widely suspected by intelligence agencies for some time. analysts said. US officials learned this year that Zawahiri’s wife and other family members had recently moved to a safe haven in Kabul.
Zawahiri soon followed, senior administration officials said.
US officials, joined together by top leaders, eventually, Biden, confirmed his identity and spent months wary of the ill-fated practice of standing alone on the porch and planning the strike.
What does his death imply for al-Qaeda?
It all depends on who replaces him as an al-Qaeda lieutenant. That’s a pretty thin team after decades of US and other attacks.
According to al-Qaeda expert Ali Soufan, an Egyptian named Saif al-Adl should be feared by the West because of his respected status within al-Qaeda, his experience, and the potential for his charisma. Defectors from Al-Qaeda who joined other organizations.
However, al-Qaeda as a whole is now facing a succession crisis and a bleak future. This includes combating aggressive extremist groups that emerged in the aftermath of 9/11 and have a presence in Afghanistan.
After the assassination, Charles Lister, another expert on violent extremist networks, wrote that the nature and spread of conflict in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia now favor locally focused jihadist organizations over global ones.
According to Lister, Al-next Qaeda’s leader will have to demonstrate his relevance to confident allies willing to push back against a central leadership perceived as disconnected from the reality of the conflict thousands of miles away.
Was the Taliban aware that al-Zawahiri was in Afghanistan?
Unquestionably, according to US officials. It was unclear how long al-Zawahiri had been in Afghanistan on Monday, but his presence there had long been rumoured, according to Asfandiar Mir, a Central Asia expert at the US Institute of Peace.
Furthermore, according to a senior US intelligence official, the house where al-Zawahiri was living with his family was owned by a top associate of Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.
Someone in the Taliban may have sold al-Zawahiri and his family to the US or other foreign interests.
However, it was a Taliban government that took in al-Qaeda leaders in the mid-1990s and allowed them to plan the 9/11 attacks there, resulting in a 20-year US-led war.
Following al-death Zawahiri’s in Kabul, there was concern that the Taliban was giving the armed extremist group a new home in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the US withdrawal, as the West had feared. (AP)