The so-called “neutralisation” of Doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri teaches us things about the capabilities of American intelligence agencies and the determination of Washington.
It has been demonstrated once more that it is unwise to launch a frontal assault against the United States of America. After the elimination of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as the “Caliph” of the Islamic State group, on October 26, 2019, Dr. al-Zawahiri was “definitively neutralised” as a result of an expertly executed information operation. Although it was a Republican administration, that of Donald Trump, that eliminated al-Baghdadi, it was two Democratic presidents, Barack Obama and Joe Biden (whom we had nicknamed a little quickly “sleepy Joe” when he came into power), who, eleven years apart, killed the two founders of Al-Qaida. This is something that we will note as an aside.
It cannot be emphasised enough that the fight against terrorism is conducted in the same manner regardless of the occupants of the White House, and that the passage of time does not affect either the zeal or the ability of those working in the field of counterterrorism.
To pull off this ruse, the CIA was required to use their talent. It had not foreseen the fall of the Soviet bloc nor, thirty years later, the capture of Kabul by the Taliban, but the primary American intelligence agency has recovered its health. In the past, the agency was often criticised for its lack of foresight, but it has now recovered its health. She had announced before February 24 that Russia was going to invade Ukraine, and over the weekend, she settled the bloody accounts of September 11. She did this alone, with her British counterparts, but she did it alone.
Human resources and advanced technological sources
The American intelligence services first became convinced that they were on the right track in their search for the leader of Al-Qaeda at the beginning of this year. Human sources, both in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where it was long believed that Bin Laden’s successor was hiding, and in Afghanistan, hostile terrain if he is, make it possible to identify the channels he used to send his audio and video messages to his supporters and the media, and then for those messages to go back to him. This is in addition to technical interceptions, which include satellite images, telephone and messaging interceptions. The fact that the Taliban have returned to Kabul must have provided the veteran jihadist with a sense of confidence; after all, he had joined the Muslim Brotherhood when he was only 14 years old!
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) found out as a result that the man was moving around Afghanistan very freely, with the complicity and under the active protection of the leadership and members of the Haqqani network. The Haqqani network is the most extremist faction of the Taliban, probably numbering around ten thousand combatants and led by Serajuddin Haqqani, the current Minister of the Interior of the Emirate of Afghanistan. The man had the intention of returning to Kabul to settle there with In point of fact, al-Zawahiri did not waste any time in landing in the Sherpour district, also known as “the Beverly Hills” of Kabul. This is an ultra-residential neighbourhood in which businessmen, drug barons, and corrupt senior officials live in mansions that are worth several million dollars.
The following information must be specified because it is vital: the safe house where the leader of Al Qaeda is believed to be hiding belongs to a very close associate of Sirajuddin Haqqani. During the spring, oversight was increased while the CIA considered its various options.
At a meeting on July 1 that proved to be pivotal, the Director of the CIA, William Burns, the National Intelligence Director, Avril Haines, and Christine Abizaid, Director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center (a former military intelligence specialist, from Afghanistan and Pakistan), exposed the situation to Vice President Joe Biden. They have prepared a model of the building in which al-Zawahiri resides so that they can answer all of the president’s questions. These questions include inquiries about the materials that were used in the building’s construction and, as a result, the impact that a missile strike would have. The objective is crystal clear: to ensure that the terrorist leader is eliminated, while at the same time minimising and, if at all possible, avoiding any collateral damage. This coming July 1st or within a few days of the decision to take action, whichever comes first.
At approximately 6:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, July 31, a drone, possibly a Predator or a Reaper, fired two Hellfire missiles at the balcony where al-Zawahiri was standing. The completion of a unique and “faultless” intelligence process by integrating key human sources with advanced technology.
Double Afghan set
The United States of America and the Taliban reached an agreement in Doha on February 29, 2020, and as part of that deal, the Taliban stated that they would no longer permit Al Qaeda to conduct operations from within Afghan territory. Despite this, they gave the leader of the terrorist group permission to settle in the middle of Kabul, where he was protected by the Minister of the Interior and his relatives.
The proximity between Al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network is nothing new; the rapprochement between the two groups took place in the 1980s, during the “first” war in Afghanistan. However, this should not come as much of a surprise. (in opposition to the Soviets) and did not once contradict himself. Following the intervention of the Allies in October 2001 and continuing into the years that followed, the Haqqani network frequently served as a transmission belt between Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani secret service (ISI).
Little impact on the danger posed by terrorists
Having said that, the passing of Ayman al-Zawahiri is unlikely to have much of an effect on the current level of the terrorist threat. Islamic State has long since surpassed Al-Qaeda as the preeminent terrorist organisation, and the former Bin Laden House no longer engages in any significant activity anywhere other than the Arabian Peninsula (primarily in Yemen), the Sahel, and Somalia ( through the Shaabab).
Al-Zawahiri was a leader who was uninspiring: he was much more of a strategist and ideologue than a practitioner, and he had very little to no influence on the day-to-day management of operations. al-Zawahiri was much less charismatic than bin Laden, and he was rigid and dogmatic. If the factions within Al-Qaeda are unable to come to an agreement on who should be appointed as his successor, then what is left of the organisation will likely disintegrate as a result of his disappearance.