President Joe Biden touted the killing of al-Quaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri as a win for his administration on Monday, but experts said he was ignoring some major facts.
“On Saturday, on my direction, the United States successfully concluded an air strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed the emir of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri,” Biden said on Monday.
“You know, Zawahiri was [Osama] bin Laden’s leader. He was with him all the…whole time. He was his number two man, his deputy, at the time of the terrorist attack on 9/11. He was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11.”
The United States has killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda and one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists, who oversaw the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, alongside the group’s founder, Osama bin Laden, announced President Biden. pic.twitter.com/lfX0yY5wDs
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) August 2, 2022
Biden went on to tout the killing as the fulfillment of a promise he made to Americans when pulling out of Afghanistan nearly a year ago.
“I made a promise to the American people that we’d continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond,” Biden said. “We’ve done just that.”
“I made a promise to the American people that we’d continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan…We’ve done just that,” Pres. Biden says on the killing of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri nearly one year after U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/61fUv6ahZY
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 2, 2022
While eliminating this terrorist is undoubtedly a positive development for the country, the fact that he was even in Afghanistan highlighted Biden’s previous failures.
In trying to justify his hasty withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan on Aug. 20, 2021, Biden declared al-Qaeda was no longer in Afghanistan.
“Look, let’s put this thing in perspective here,” Biden said according to a White House transcript. “What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al-Qaeda gone?
“We went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, as well as — as well as getting Osama bin Laden. And we did.”
Given that the leader al-Quaeda leader was in Afghanistan on Saturday, it seems the group is in the country at this point. This means one of two things, neither of which are good for Biden.
Either Biden was lying when he said al-Quaeda was “gone” from Afghanistan last year, or the group has re-entered the country since Biden’s botched withdrawal. In both scenarios, Biden failed to achieve the stated goal of “getting rid of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.”
As Biden celebrated the killing of Zawahiri, some terrorism experts pointed out this inconvenient fact.
“The killing of Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri will be sold as a counterterrorism success,” Long War Journal terrorism analyst Bill Roggio wrote on Twitter. “But that narrative masks the undeniable truth that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is a safe have for Al Qaeda.”
1) The killing of Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri will be sold as a counterterrorism success. But that narrative masks the undeniable truth that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is a safe have for Al Qaeda. https://t.co/CGc5Fs8oMw
— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) August 2, 2022
In another tweet from the same thread, Roggio explained the implications of Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul.
“Zawahiri could not operate in Afghanistan — particularly in Kabul — without the consent of the Taliban,” Roggio wrote. “He wasn’t in the remote mountains of Kunar, Nuristan, or Nangarhar, or distant provinces of Ghazni, Helmand, or Kandahar. He was in the Taliban’s capital.”
4) Zawahiri could not operate in Afghanistan – particularly in Kabul – without the consent of the Taliban. He wasn’t in the remote mountains of Kunar, Nuristan, or Nangarhar, or distant provinces of Ghazni, Helmand, or Kandahar. He was in the Taliban’s capital.
— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) August 2, 2022
International security professor Max Abrahms made a similar point in a tweet of his own.
“Taking out #Zawahiri isn’t the categorical win Biden says,” he wrote. “The Taliban was supposed to prevent Al Qaeda leaders from hiding out there for goodness sake.”
Taking out #Zawahiri isn’t the categorical win Biden says. The Taliban was supposed to prevent Al Qaeda leaders from hiding out there for goodness sake.
— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) August 1, 2022
Once again, Biden is attempting to take credit for taking steps to solve a problem he created, at least in part. While Zawahiri’s death is a good thing, it is not the end of terrorism problems in Afghanistan, and we have Biden himself to thank for that.
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