Biden’s al-Qaeda attack reveals a disturbing truth about America’s war on terror

Killing key terrorist leaders has become more common as the attacks they use to plan or instigate have less and less impact on the West, and the West’s counter-terrorism capabilities have grown.

But taking out al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri from a balcony in one of the most luxurious neighborhoods in Kabul, the city where the U.S. withdrew from the chaos a year ago, is not routine. feat. It’s an astounding display of America’s two decades of experience hunting down terrorists.

However, it leaves a predictable lesson: Afghanistan has been a haven for terrorists for the past decade – they just haven’t attacked from there, which means we’ve noticed. But the fact that al-Zawahiri lived there debunks the frenetic spin ahead of the U.S. withdrawal.

Over the years, U.S. perceptions of the al Qaeda threat in Afghanistan have appeared to be swayed by the footprint the U.S. has pursued. In the years when they wanted to go the extra mile in the longest war, I remember being briefed that a solid core threat—perhaps a few hundred key al Qaeda figures—still existed and could be self-inflicted reorganization.

Then, as the U.S. rushed out, the danger posed by al Qaeda was downplayed. The raid on al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan shows that the issue is being handled well, and the U.S. seems to have hinted at it, not that the group is still around and big enough to hit.

Pictures show Kabul house where al-Qaeda leader was killed by US airstrike

Now — ironically, thanks to America’s success — there is undeniable evidence of a problem Washington has been hoping to address for years.

Al Qaeda is “making something,” said a former Afghan government official well-versed in counterterrorism.

He suggested that al-Zawahiri was not the country’s only major al-Qaeda figure, and that his potential successor, Saif al-Adel, the No. 2 figure in the UN report, may have recently entered Afghanistan.

In May last year, shortly before the fall of Kabul, Afghan intelligence officials estimated that it would take 6 to 12 months for al Qaeda to launch an attack in the region, and possibly 18 months in the West. .

It’s unclear what effect Zawahiri’s death will have on the timeline, but we can be sure that its symbolic impact means it’s unlikely to speed things up.

So how does this affect the Taliban? In fact, not much has changed.

The Haqqani network, which has been firmly in control of Kabul, has been accused of having close ties to al-Qaeda. It is likely that their infrastructure hid and supported Zawahiri during his time in the city.

His death, therefore, could exacerbate any divisions within the Taliban; the group’s moderates may hope its efforts to adapt to the world stage are not hampered by the event. But don’t count on that too much.

The Haqqanis may remain the most assertive and assertive faction of the group, and they are unlikely to change tactics suddenly after this embarrassment.

It’s all the more bad news for ordinary people in Afghanistan, facing the impact of sanctions, isolation and the struggle insurgents always face when they suddenly have to provide government services.

After this, it will be even harder to improve relations between the West and Kabul.

It doesn’t appear that the strike has drastically changed the reality al-Qaeda faces locally: their brand has evolved into a series of global franchises that evoke fear among locals – often locals for locals attack. However, they’re still a group that hasn’t made world headlines in a brutal way for a while.

Zawahiri appears to have become more relaxed and confident in his message to the outside world, referring to recent world events; his or the host’s complacency may have contributed to the successful strike, according to a senior counterterrorism analyst .

After al-Zawahiri was killed, al-Qaeda needed a new leader. Its benches are thinner than before.

Zawahiri is still believed to be directly involved in the planning of al Qaeda operations, but the world has changed since the sudden shock and earthquake grief of September 11, 2001. His death is unlikely to prevent any attacks already planned.

It does teach us two lessons, though: First, while the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is humiliating and strategically unavoidable, it has a long reach and memory. It is still delivering justice for crimes committed two decades ago. There is a determination here, which America’s adversaries cannot ignore, given the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine.

But the second lesson is darker: People don’t always change. Even after NATO’s presence in Afghanistan was ravaged, and the devastation and chaos that the Taliban brought to the country when it decided to let al-Qaeda take refuge there decades ago, some parts of the Taliban chose to make them home again there .

This scene still baffles me: In an area where Westerners and connected Afghan officials would enjoy the comfort of being behind a wall of security for two decades, a US drone strike kills the al Qaeda leader who thinks he You can relax on the balcony. Dawn light.

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