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The leader of al Qaeda and one of the main figures in planning the September 11 attacks was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Sunday.
Ayman al-Zawahiri was hiding in a wealthy neighborhood of Kabul, Afghanistan, according to U.S. military officials, when a guided missile strike killed him as he stood on a balcony. No other casualties were reported.
The strike followed months of planning following the CIA's confirmation of al-Zawahiri's location, which it had sought for over two decades. Close monitoring of the home and al-Zawahiri's daily routines reportedly enabled the precision strike while ensuring no others would be harmed. U.S. officials also believe the Taliban, which took control of Afghanistan last year, was aware of al-Zawahiri's location despite international agreements to not harbor individuals wanted for terrorism. The Taliban has denied that accusation.
The missile used was reportedly a high-precision Hellfire missile, likely fired from an unmanned drone. This type of missile is believed to be the one used to kill Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in 2020 and other targets of anti-terrorism operations.
Voices across the political spectrum celebrated the success of the operation while also downplaying its broader impact and criticizing the Taliban for breaking terrorism agreements. Some conservatives were more critical of Biden for purportedly failing to hold the Taliban accountable for allegedly allowing al-Zawahiri to seek refuge in Kabul.
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Snippets from the Left
"In a 'Worldwide Caution' advisory issued Tuesday, the department noted that al-Zawahiri — an architect of terrorist attacks including 9/11 and the 2000 USS Cole bombing — had urged his followers to attack the U.S., and that supporters of al-Qaida or affiliate organizations may seek to do so in the wake of his death."
Even in Success, Why Biden’s Victory Lap Will be Short
"...if al-Zawahri’s presence means that there are others with malevolent intentions abiding there, then maybe the idea that we can look at Afghanistan in a rearview mirror is sadly misplaced. For all the likelihood that Biden will get a (deserved) bump in his approval ratings, as Biden and Trump did when bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were killed, that specter of a terrorist sanctuary may limit that advantage."
Snippets from the Center
"Americans danced in the streets over the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The killing of his successor has been met with a more muted response - but those robbed of their loved ones by Ayman al-Zawahiri's actions say his death matters too."
Drone Strike That Killed al Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri Raises Tactical Questions on Threat From Afghanistan
Wall Street Journal (analysis)
"Some details of the final months of the nearly 21-year hunt for Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s former deputy, remain unclear, making judgments about Mr. Biden’s overall strategy difficult. The unknowns include from which country the drone that fired two missiles at him was launched, and how U.S. spy agencies first detected a human network that supported the al Qaeda emir, tracking his family to a safe house in the Afghan capital where he was found. U.S. officials declined to disclose those details of the operation."
Snippets from the Right
"Two senior national security officials were first briefed on the intelligence in early April, with the president being briefed by national security adviser Jake Sullivan shortly thereafter. Through May and June, a small circle of officials across the government worked to vet the intelligence and devise options for Biden, the officials said. Biden was then briefed on the proposed strike by his national security aides on July 1, after returning from a five-day trip to Europe."
Al Qaeda leader Zawahri's death and questions that need answers
Fox News (opinion)
"A more important question is whether President Biden’s decision to take out al-Zawahri means his administration will finally recognize radical Islamist terrorist as a high priority national security issue instead of several trivial issues it has stressed in its national security policy such as climate change."