Biden gets Ayman al Zawahiri … hooray
The killing of al Qaeda terrorist mastermind Ayman al-Zawahiri is an uncompromised win for America, the civilized world, and the Biden Administration. It is a good thing. Everyone from President Biden to the person remotely piloting the drone that killed al-Zawahiri gets a pat on the back and a round of applause.
As a singular mission, it was amazingly flawless. The intel community found him by whatever sources and methods they employed. The over-the-horizon strike was a masterpiece of precision – taking out al-Zawahiri from a balcony in an upscale neighborhood in Kabul without killing his family or innocent civilians.
Ironically, it was accomplished without having major on-the-ground intelligence capability – unlike the tragic over-the-horizon blunder that led to the killing of an innocent aid worker and a number of children in the final days of the Afghan surrender when there was still a lot of intelligence potential on the ground.
While the operation, itself, was picture-perfect, it brought out a number of other troubling issues.
The first was the fact that al-Zawahiri was in Kabul in the first place – and not exactly cowering in a bunker. The Doha agreement between the United States and the Taliban prior to their again taking control of Afghanistan, committed the terrorist organization to keep Afghanistan free of al Qaeda and ISIS terrorism.
The Doha agreement was first proposed by President Trump and fully embraced by Biden as his rationale for surrendering Afghanistan. In fact, in justifying his retreat, Biden proclaimed that al Qaeda no longer existed in Afghanistan. (Yes, he actually said that).
Biden has been wrong about Afghanistan virtually 100 percent of the time. Whether he is intentionally misinforming the American people as political bullpoop, or he actually believes his wrongheaded remarks when he makes them, is in the eye of the beholder. (Personally, I vote for political bullpoop).
Since the American surrender, Qaeda has been growing under the protective wing of the Taliban. Several members of the new Taliban leadership have had ties to al Qaeda. When Maulvi Haibatullah Akhundzada took the reigns of Afghanistan as the Supreme Leader, the late al-Zawahiri hailed him as an “emir of the believers”. The safe house in which al-Zawahiri was residing was in a building owned by a Taliban official with ties to the Kandahari Network – the region of Afghanistan that borders with the al Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan.
While the killing of al-Zawahiri was an impressive action, it does not diminish a greater set of facts. Under the leadership of the Taliban, al Qaeda has been allowed to flourish. al-Zawahiri was not in Afghanistan alone, by a long shot.
Another truth is that while al-Zawahiri was the senior leader of al Qaeda, the terrorist group has depth in management. The Washington Institution for Middle East Policy published this upon the death of al-Zawahiri:
“At the end of the day … Zawahiri’s death is unlikely to have a significant impact on the operational capabilities of AQ [al Qaeda] or its branches. He was not believed to be running the organization’s daily affairs, only broad strategic decision-making.”
Al-Zawahiri’s death may be more symbolic – justice served – than crippling to al Qaeda. Afghanistan will remain a hotbed of terrorism under the sponsorship of the Taliban.
Finally, virtually all the generals and foreign policy experts who have appeared on television in response to the death of Zawahiri have agreed that surrendering Afghanistan was a serious blow to America’s intelligence capabilities in that region. This one successful action does not change that reality.
I liken the killing of Zawahiri as similar to the sinking of “The Moscow” by the Ukrainians. It was a breathtaking event that lifts the spirit – but it does not change the larger realities. It does not change the fact that Biden’s surrendering Afghanistan was a monumental blunder.
So, there ‘tis.