Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Taliban

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During his long career as a mudslinger and a strategist of terror, Ayman al-Zawahiri frequently teased the United States. He hewed to the acquainted topic that the united states was an apostate electricity at struggle with Islam. But he also described it as a spent force. In a videotape released this spring, he said that “U.S. weakness ” was responsible for the war touched off by Russia’s irruption of Ukraine, and he mocked the country’s standing “ after its defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, after the profitable disasters caused by the9/11 irruptions, after the coronavirus epidemic, and after it left its supporter Ukraine as prey for the Russians. ”

TheU.S. drone strike in Kabul last Saturday that killed Zawahiri, who was seventy-one, added a punctuation mark to the long hunt for justice for the victims of9/11 and of other deadly attacks that Zawahiri directly approved, similar to the bombing of twoU.S. Delegacies in Africa in 1998, which killed twelve Americans and further than two hundred Africans. President Joe Biden, publicizing the attack on Monday evening, said that he hoped Zawahiri’s death “ provides a small measure of peace to the9/11 families and everyone differently who has suffered at the hands of Al Qaeda. ”
An Egyptian- born croaker
who took up Islamist violence as a teenager, Zawahiri succeeded Osama bin laden as Al Qaeda’s leader in 2011, following bin weighted down’s demise, in Pakistan, at the hands of military SEALs. Regarded by some of his associates as a bloated, cutlet-wagging figure of limited seductiveness, Zawahiri saw his applicability in the firmament of global Islamist radicalism fade during the once decade. According to recent education grounded on papers captured from Bin Laden’s den, theC.I.A.’s drone crusade that targeted Al Qaeda between 2008 and 2013 devastated the core association, which was grounded in Pakistan and Afghanistan. More lately, the rise of the Islamic State has transcended Al Qaeda in the Middle East, and indeed in Afghanistan.

piecemeal from the issue of justice served, the topmost source of interest in Zawahiri’s payoff lies in where he was set up — not far from the now- shutteredU.S. Embassy, in Sherpur, one of central Kabul’s fairly upmarket neighborhoods, where elderly numbers in the Taliban governance presently live. According to an unnamed Taliban leader quoted by Reuters, Zawahiri moved to Afghanistan just many months after the Taliban seized power last August. An unnamed elderly Biden Administration functionary told journalists on Monday that at least some numbers in the Taliban’s Haqqani body knew of Zawahiri’s presence. After the strike, the Taliban removed all signs of his stay from the safe house in which he’d been abiding.
President Biden and his critics both incontinently used the stark substantiation of the Taliban’s renewed relationship with Al Qaeda to relitigate Biden’s decision last time to withdraw all remainingU.S. forces from Afghanistan, which was also substantially riveted on counterterrorism. The President called Saturday’s strike “ evidence that it’s possible to bed out terrorism without being at war in Afghanistan. ” The egregious answer is that the boldness reflected in Zawahiri’s presence in town Kabul — he was reportedly killed while meeting with other Al Qaeda leaders suggests the rising peril that terrorist groups pose under Taliban hospitality. In June, a United Nations unit that monitors terrorism reported that Al Qaeda enjoys “ increased freedom of action ” in Afghanistan.

We don’t know veritably much about how theU.S. learned that Zawahiri was in Kabul. His den appears to have been unsubtle, and there are numerous Afghans opposed to the Taliban in the capital who could have passed suggestions to theC.I.A. or others. Unlikely as it seems now, it would also not be shocking to learn that Taliban leaders themselves might have done so, to win favor in Washington, or that a Taliban heresiarch did it for particular gain. Zawahiri would not have been shocked by such treason. Although he and bin Laden admired and trusted Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban’s founding emir, who failed in 2013, they regarded other Taliban commanders and leaders as tone-interested, opportunistic, and dangerous, according to “ The Bin Laden Papers, ” a pregnant book that analyzes internal Al Qaeda correspondence, published before this time by the social scientist Nelly Lahoud.
In 2010, Zawahiri wrote to bin Laden about his fears that the Taliban might vend out Al Qaeda in accommodations with the United States. “ Had I been advising the Americans, and thank God that I’m not, ” Zawahiri wrote, he’d have suggested that Washington demand Mullah Omar “ keep Al Qaeda impotent, ” because “ utmost Taliban would agree with these terms. ” Too numerous Taliban “ who present themselves as moderate, ” he continued, were in fact “ serpents, intelligencers, and hypocrites. ”

Zawahiri’s fears appeared to be realized a decade latterly when the Taliban inked a deal with the Trump Administration, known as the Doha Agreement. TheU.S. pledged to remove all of its colors from Afghanistan by May 2021, in return for Taliban pledges to help Afghanistan from being used as a base by Al Qaeda or other transnational terrorist groups. During the accommodations, Taliban envoys told their American counterparts intimately, as my coworker Adam Entous and I reported late last time, that, if theU.S. bombed the Islamic State, “ We’ll hang flowers around your necks. ” About Al Qaeda members, they added, “ Kill as numerous as you want. ” Of course, talk behind unrestricted doors is easy on several motifs, the Taliban’s interpretation of what they promised in the Doha Agreement has proved to be starkly different from what American mediators had hoped.
The Taliban’s relationship with the Afghan branch of the Islamic State is murkier than its relationship with Al Qaeda, which has easily been cooperative in recent times. ( The Haqqani family- the grounded body of the Taliban, presently led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, the acting innards minister, has enjoyed ties with Al Qaeda since the nineteen- eighties; during that period of violent resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Haqqanis also accepted backing from theC.I.A.) At times, Taliban units have fought the Islamic State for home and coffers. Yet, when Taliban regulars swept into Kabul last summer, as theU.S.- backed government collapsed, the Taliban’s commanders incontinently freed hundreds of Islamic State captures.

The Biden Administration lately gave the Taliban a measure of public credit for its opposition to the Islamic State. In late July, in Uzbekistan, Administration officers joined addresses with the Taliban and representatives of further than two dozen countries. subsequently, Tom West, theU.S. unique representative for Afghanistan, wrote on Twitter that actors within the addresses had conceded “ the Taliban’s energetic purposeful sweats ” towards the institution.Yet West said that the actors also expressed “ deep enterprises ” about the presence, in Afghanistan, of Al Qaeda and other groups, including Tehrik-e-Taliban, known as the Pakistani Taliban, which seeks the defeat of the nuclear-fortified in Islamabad government.
The Taliban’s original response to Zawahiri’s payoff was strikingly mild. A spokesperson denounced the attack as a violation of the Doha Agreement, calling it “ a reiteration of the failed tests of the once 20 times… against the interests of theU.S., Afghanistan, and the region. ” The restraint most probably reflects the profound embarrassment that the strike has created for the Taliban, at a time when its restored government seeks legality and transnational aid, despite its, so far, dismal record on mortal rights and the rights of women and girls to pierce education.

With the loss of life of Zawahiri, Al Qaeda have to now discover its 0.33 emir. Resetting relations with the Taliban will be high on the new leader’s docket. Zawahiri, during what proved to be the last months of his life, again emphasized the bar sinister of the transnational system that Taliban leaders now seek to cultivate. After the Taliban’s restored government blazoned an envoy to the United Nations last November, he attacked the decision in a statement, advising that the theU.N. was a “ peril ” to the global Muslim community and that the theU.N. duty — a launching document of the postwar order among governments — “ patently contradicts Islamic law. ”
It’s on the base of similar apocalyptic radicalism that Al Qaeda has justified the deaths of thousands of angels, including Muslims. Zawahiri is gone, but, as long as his ideas live on and bands of levies find haven in Taliban- ruled Afghanistan, the trouble of occasional shocks of mass violence will imminence Afghans, their neighbors, and the world.

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