The Biden administration Monday boasted it had assassinated Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of Al Qaeda, as the mid-term elections draw near. Al-Zawahiri was reportedly heavily involved in plotting the 9/11 attacks.
“The world is a safer place following the death of Zawahiri, and the United States will continue to act resolutely against those who would threaten our country, our people, or our allies and partners,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement.
Al-Zawahiri was reportedly killed by two Hellfire missiles fired by a drone while standing on his balcony in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“Justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more,” Joe Biden said in an address Monday. “Now we make it clear again tonight, that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide: If you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.”
“To those around the world who have continued to seek to harm the United States, hear me now: We will always remain vigilant and we will act and we will always do what is necessary to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and around the globe.”
But questions remain about Al-Zawahiri's death, one of which is that he had reportedly died before.
“Arab News reports the terrorist, 68, died of natural causes related to asthma citing four sources in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” reported The Sun in November 2020.
"He died last week in Ghazni. He died of asthma because he had no formal treatment,” an Al Qaeda translator told Arab News.
“A Pakistani security official added: ‘We believe he is no longer alive. We are firm that he has died of natural causes,’” The Sun continued.
“Another source close to al-Qaeda said he died earlier this month and a small number of followers attended his funeral in Ghazni.
"’What we know is that he was having some breathing issues and has passed away somewhere in Afghanistan,’ they said.
“Other security sources were cited as being aware the terrorist was ‘extremely ill’ and another said he was in ‘unstable health’.
But even if Al-Zawahiri was indeed killed this week, terrorism experts say that’s not a good sign. If the terror chief was in Afghanistan, that means Al Qaeda has returned to its roots, and the United States’ 20-year war trying to prevent that was a stunning failure.
“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,” Bill Roggio, terrorism analyst at the Long War Journal, tweeted. “The strike that killed Zawahiri is the first since the U.S withdrawal 1+ months ago. The U.S. saved best for first, and made the first counterterrorism strike count.”
“The Taliban was supposed to prevent Al Qaeda leaders from hiding out there for goodness sake,” said Max Abrahms, an international security professor.
The announcement comes just as Biden’s approval rating has sunk lower than any other U.S. president’s, according to a Gallup poll, and gives Biden a much-needed political win in the lead-up to November’s mid-term elections, which is forecasted to be a “red tsunami”.