On Monday, President Joe Biden confirmed that the United States killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike. Zawahiri had remained a visible international symbol of the group, 11 years after bin Laden‘s death. At one point, he acted as bin Laden’s personal physician.
A senior administration official said Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in an airstrike conducted Saturday night by two unmanned drones, firing several missiles at a safe house in downtown Kabul where he was hiding with his family. The strike was authorized by President Obama following weeks of meetings with his Cabinet and key advisers. It took place at 9:48 p.m. ET on Saturday after confirmation from multiple sources that al-Zawahiri was present in the area, contrary to agreements made during peace talks with the Taliban earlier this year in Doha, Qatar. Senior Haqqani Taliban figures were aware of Zawahiri’s presence in the area; they took steps to conceal his location after Saturday’s successful strike, restricting access to the safe house and rapidly relocating members of his family—including his daughter and her children—who were intentionally not targeted during the strike and remained unharmed. The US did not alert Taliban officials ahead of Saturday’s strike.)
On July 31, the Taliban alleged that an air strike was carried out on a residential house in Sherpur area of Kabul city. In a series of tweets, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that the nature of the incident was not apparent at first but later determined to be an airstrike after an investigation by security and intelligence services of the Islamic Emirate. This attack took place prior to CNN reporting that Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan. The tweets by Mujahid came out while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was hosting a conference in Kabul with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif aimed at ending the violence that has taken place between their countries since September 11, 2001. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan “strongly condemns this attack on any pretext and calls it a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement,” said Mujahid.
‘Justice has been delivered’
Vice President Joe Biden, who was kept informed of the strike against Osama bin Laden as he recuperated from a case of the flu, spoke from the Blue Room Balcony at the White House on Monday. “Bin Laden was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11,” Biden said. “He was one of the most responsible for the attacks that murdered 2,977 people on American soil.” “Now justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more,” he continued. “People around the world no longer need to fear this vicious and determined killer.” The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and capacity to defend Americans against those who seek to do us harm.” “We make it clear again tonight: No matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide—if you are a threat to our people, America will find you and take you out.”
President Obama said that the strike on Osama Bin Laden’s compound was the result of “extraordinary persistence and skill” by the nation’s intelligence community. 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.” He added that after 20 years of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and beyond, it was time for Americans to come home.
Biden pledged that Zawahiri would never again be able to use Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorists, saying that Zawahiri had been eliminated. The President expressed gratitude to US intelligence and counterterrorism communities, saying that he hoped Zawahiri’s death would bring some measure of closure to the friends and families of 9/11 victims. “To those who continue to seek to harm the United States,” Obama said, “hear me now: We will always remain vigilant and we will act—and we will always do what is necessary to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and around the globe.”