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Afghan Taliban Faces Serious Questions following Assassination of Ayman al Zawahiri

Umm Muhammed Umar

Media reports this week suggested that 71 year old eye doctor an al Qaeda head, Ayman al Zawahiri, had been killed in a CIA drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan. Radio Islam spoke to political analyst, Arshad Yusufzai.

Yusufzai said that it was believed that two blasts were heard in a locality called Wazeer Akbar Khan, an upmarket area of the capital, Kabul, in the early hours of Sunday.  He said that the area is in close proximity to the UK Embassy and the US Embassy is at some distance. Yusufzai said, “Initially, there was no confirmation and there was no news about who was the target was, and the Afghan Taliban, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, had earlier said that this was not in the news, but this was a rocket attack on an empty house in Kabul”.  He added, however, that later a spokesperson told the media that a drone attack had taken place, in violation of Afghan airspace, as well as of one of the important points of the Doha agreement that no such activity would take place. On Monday night, US President Joe Biden tweeted about the incident, confirming that Dr Ayman al Zawahiri, the chief of al Qaeda, had been targeted in the attack. Yusufzai said, “And after that, reports and information started to come in from different sources and different news channels across the world.” He added, “Our understanding is that Dr Zawahiri was targeted in this attack and his family was there as well.”

Yusufzai said that he believed Dr Zawahiri was, in the past few years, just a ceremonial name and head of al Qaeda, because after the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the group was effectively inactive in Afghanistan. He said, “they had no active role in the war in Afghanistan, and there was nothing much happening there, but Dr Zawahiri kept on sharing his messages and ideas to his followers across the world from Afghanistan.” He said that while there were some reports that he had left Afghanistan during the war, he believed that Dr Zawahiri continued to live in Afghanistan, and in some areas where there was intense fighting going on for many years. He said, “As far as last year, he was in one of the provinces where there was active fighting going on.” He asserted, “Dr Zawahiri, just like his predecessor, Osama bin Laden, was living a retired life, I will say, with his family in an unknown location, in an unknown house, when he was targeted.”

It could work to President Bidens advantage in his next election campaign that he eliminated al Qaeda’s chief, and effectively al Qaeda’s role in Afghanistan. Yusufzai said, “And also, it means that, the Afghan Taliban are now on the backfoot since they had agreed to not hosting or harbouring ‘terrorists’ in Afghanistan.” He added, “Zawahiri’s attack in the heart of Afghanistan, the capital city that is controlled by the Taliban, would raise serious questions about if the Taliban knew about his presence or not.” He said that if the Taliban were aware of Dr Zawahiri’s presence, they had also violated the Doha agreement. He said, “So I think it’s a win – win situation at the moment for the Americans.”

According to Yusufzai, some of the Taliban have been criticizing their own government on social media and elsewhere, for having been unable to protect the Mujahideen, while others were criticizing them for supporting or hiding the leader of al Qaeda. He said that there are serious questions to be answered by the Afghan Taliban regarding how the attack occurred and how Zawahiri came to be in Kabul.



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