Biden declares ‘justice delivered’ after drone strike kills Al Qaeda chief


President Biden introduced Monday that Al Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahiri, a key plotter of the Sept. 11 assaults, was killed in a CIA drone strike he ordered focusing on the terrorist chief in Afghanistan.

One of many world’s most needed terrorists, Zawahiri helped oversee the 2001 assaults on New York and the Pentagon, working carefully with former Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, and had led the group over the past decade since Bin Laden’s demise.

The 71-year-old Egyptian was killed in a drone strike at 6:48 p.m. native time Saturday at a residential location in Kabul, which fell to the Taliban a yr in the past virtually instantly after Biden ordered the final U.S. forces to withdraw — a improvement that many feared would result in extra terrorist exercise in Afghanistan’s capital.

“Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist chief isn’t any extra,” Biden stated from the Blue Room balcony, as he remained in seclusion contained in the White Home residence after testing constructive for the coronavirus in a rebound case. “Irrespective of how lengthy it takes, regardless of how lengthy you cover, in case you are a risk to our individuals, the USA will discover you and take you out.”

Afghanistan, Biden continued, “can’t be a launching pad in opposition to the USA. We’re going to see to it that gained’t occur.”

A decade after Navy SEALs killed Bin Laden throughout a daring raid on his closely fortified compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad, Pakistan, Zawahiri’s whereabouts had remained a thriller.

However U.S. intelligence officers, a senior administration official stated, tracked Zawahiri and his household to a protected home in downtown Kabul the place they moved earlier this yr. Over the following a number of months, officers noticed Zawahiri on the balcony, the place he was finally struck and killed in a plan devised to attenuate the danger to his household and civilians within the closely populated space.

Biden, the official stated, was first briefed in April, obtained updates on the intelligence all through Might and June, and gave the ultimate go-ahead for the assault after a gathering with prime Cupboard and nationwide safety advisors on July 25, the place all of the contributors expressed help for the mission.

5 days later, a drone carried out the assault, firing two Hellfire missiles at Zawahiri on the balcony, killing him and him alone. In contrast to the operation focusing on Bin Laden, which lasted 40 minutes and ended with 5 individuals killed, together with certainly one of Bin Laden’s sons, the drone strike was carried out with none U.S. navy presence on the bottom in Afghanistan — “rigorously deliberate,” Biden stated, to attenuate collateral injury. “There have been no civilian casualties,” he stated.

Taliban officers, who the White Home stated have been lengthy conscious of Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul, whisked away the terrorist’s kinfolk shortly after the strike in an effort, the senior administration official stated, to cover their presence within the metropolis.

The group’s harboring of Zawahiri, the administration official added, amounted to a violation of the Doha settlement between the U.S. and the Taliban, underneath which the group agreed to not cooperate with terrorist teams.

Biden, lengthy skeptical in regards to the navy’s dedication to the conflict in Afghanistan, famously cautioned President Obama in regards to the dangers of the 2011 Bin Laden raid when serving as vice chairman.

Ending the conflict there after 20 years of battle was amongst Biden’s prime first-year priorities, and he pushed forward with the drawdown within the face of warnings from the Pentagon, scoffing on the potential for the nation’s former authorities to fall to the Taliban simply weeks earlier than it did — a overseas coverage debacle that compelled the White Home to scramble to airlift 1000’s of weak Afghans to security and one from which his personal reputation has but to recuperate.

The profitable strike on Zawahiri, Biden stated, validated his personal rationale for ending the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, which was predicated partly on a perception that counterterrorism operations might nonetheless be carried out with no everlasting presence on the bottom.

“As President Biden has persistently stated, we won’t permit Afghanistan to develop into a protected haven for terrorists to my carry hurt to Individuals,” a senior administration official instructed reporters previous to Biden’s remarks. “We met that dedication on Saturday evening. And in doing so, we confirmed that with out American forces on the bottom in Afghanistan and in hurt’s means, we stay capable of establish and find even the world’s most needed terrorists, after which take motion to take away him from the battlefield.”

Daniel R. DePetris, a fellow at Protection Priorities, a veterans group that’s extremely skeptical about deploying navy power, drew the identical conclusion. “The focused killing of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahiri in a CIA drone strike in Afghanistan underscores a essential truth: The U.S. needn’t completely deploy navy forces to defend in opposition to terrorist threats,” DePetris stated.

“Focused airstrikes or raids have confirmed to be a extra environment friendly, less expensive solution to neutralize anti-U.S. terrorist teams. Zawahiri is the newest in an extended checklist of senior terrorist leaders, operatives and facilitators to be taken off the battlefield, together with Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” he continued, referring to the previous chief of Islamic State who was killed in a 2019 strike licensed by President Trump.

Biden, in his transient prime-time tackle to the nation, reminded the nation of Zawahiri’s central function in quite a few Al Qaeda assaults, together with the 2000 bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole in Yemen and naturally Sept. 11.

Chatting with kinfolk of these killed within the assaults on the World Commerce Heart, the Pentagon and aboard United Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pa., Biden expressed hope that Zawahiri’s demise “will likely be another measure of closure.”

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