Tuesday August 02, 2022

The meaning of Zawahiri’s killing

The meaning of Zawahiri’s killing

Ayman Al Zawahiri

It is noteworthy that a US drone fired missiles that killed Ayman Al-Zawahiri in Kabul in Afghanistan on Monday, who became the leader of Al Qaeda after the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, in Pakistan in May 2011, should have escaped the American for so long. Of course, reports from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had spent a long, time tracking Zawahiri and found a time and place where he could be killed without causing any collateral damage. It was so in the case of Osama bin Laden too. The decision to kill Osama and Zawahiri was made at the highest level, that is, by the president of the United States in the White House surrounded by his top aides.

While then president Barack Obama oversaw the operation of US Navy Seals who killed Osama, the green signal for the killing of Zawahiri was given by President Joe Biden. The thoroughness of the approach has something to commend itself.

There is the inevitable protests and objections from both sides. While the Taliban objected to the killing saying that it violates international law and, also the Doha agreement between the Taliban and the Americans, the Americans countered saying that despite promising that they would not allow the terrorist organisations to use Afghan soil, they allowed Zawahiri to live in Kabul. The Taliban would have to prove that Zawahiri was not active anymore as Al Qaeda leader, which would be a difficult thing to maintain. But if Zawahiri was lingering either in Pakistan or in Afghanistan all these years, then it is indeed a failure on the part of the Americans that they could not locate him in the 20 years that American troops were stationed in Afghanistan.

The more important question is whether it would have been better if Osama and Zawahiri were taken prisoner instead of being killed, because the Americans would have got to know how the two managed the operations of Al Qaeda if, indeed they did. The theory of the unified command of Al Qaeda appears to be a weak proposition. According to the Americans it was Zawahiri who was the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terror attack in New York and in Washington.

And as yet there are no details about how the plan was executed and whether there were others who chose the 19 kamikaze and who gave the details of the attack. If Zawahiri was captured alive, and possibly he could have been captured, then it would have been possible to get the details of the story. Or did the Americans fear that if taken prisoners, both Osama and Zahiri would have revealed their American connections when they set out to fight the Russian in Afghanistan in the late 1980s.

All the American journalists who have written volumes about the Al Qaeda network have been quite economical with truth about the American connection with the jihadis in the 1980s, and how they were armed to fight the Russians. With the emergence of many other Al Qaeda branches in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Khorasan, it is not clear as to how much Zawahiri was directly involved in directing their terror activities. And what was the relation of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi of Daesh in Iraq to Zawahiri? The Americans might believe that they have full knowledge of the workings of the Al Qaeda and all their branches, and they do not need any more evidence from people like Osama, Baghdadi, and Zawahiri. There is also the fear that if these leaders were taken prisoners, there would be outrage among their followers and there would be terrorist explosions. And that killing them would end the tale of terrorism.

← Back>