US settles a score in Afghanistan by killing al-Qaida leader

Commentary

Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist
Archive |

The drone strike that took out al-Qaida leader and 9/11 planner Ayman al-Zawahri sent a clear message that U.S. counterterrorism efforts are still in play in Afghanistan, despite last year’s messy military withdrawal from the region. It scored an intelligence victory against a terrorist organization that has often been difficult to infiltrate. President Biden called the death of al-Zawahri justice and a “measure of closure” for families of the World Trade Center attacks. Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan believes with this operation, the U.S. has put its enemies on notice: Watch your back.

Excerpted from Peter’s Aug. 2 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

The United States announced August 1 that it had killed the ideological head of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a drone strike, over the previous weekend. Reportedly battling a long-time illness, al-Zawahiri’s actual level of control over al-Qaida (and its regional affiliates) is debatable. His role in the September 11 attacks against the United States in 2001 and in inspiring campaigns of militancy that killed thousands is decidedly less so.I do take note of al-Zawahiri’s presence in a home inside Kabul. The US–primarily its intelligence agencies–still maintain considerable capabilities in a country with no formal military presence. And they are more than happy to remind any number of bad actors of the fact.

Hey everyone. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from home in Colorado. Sorry, I’ve been AWOL for the last few days. I was taking a break. The last six months with the Ukraine war has been absolutely nuts, but I had to come out of hiding because on August 1, the U.S. government has announced that it has killed Al-Zawahiri, the ideological head of Al-Qaida, using a drone strike on a facility in Kabul, Afghanistan. Al-Zawahiri is the ideologue. He’s the one who comes up with the grandiose reasons for why this is that and that is the other thing. Think of him as kind of like, the Steve Bannon of Al-Qaida, if you will. Anyway, he hasn’t really mattered for a while. With the death of Osama bin Laden well over a decade ago, Al-Qaida has basically ceased to function as any sort of transnational terror group, and basically started selling t-shirt as franchises.

So we have Al-Qaeda of Lebanon and Al-Qaida of Nigeria and Al-Qaida of the Philippines, which have negligible ties in terms of Al-Qaida parent back in Afghanistan. It was really just a marketing campaign. That doesn’t mean that this doesn’t matter. 

I mean, this was obviously one of the two people most responsible for the 9-11 attacks and for a group that has killed a large number of people in multitude of countries…not just including Americans. But what I found really interesting is that this happened in Kabul. You know, the United States pulled out of Afghanistan months ago. We don’t have military assets there at size anymore. So the United States just carried out a trans-border assassination. That is something that is going to focus a lot of minds in a lot of places. 

The United States has never been shy about projecting power where it feels its interests are threatened. 

But also, Al-Zawahiri was no longer a threat. This was a revenge hit plain and simple. And I’m not saying I don’t support it. I mean, this guy deserved a drone strike, but this was not a casual operation. This required intelligence penetration into a group that has proven remarkably resistant to intelligence penetration, for decades. Bottom line? The United States isn’t simply still in the game. It now has the attention span to go after what are honestly from a strategic point of view, minor targets. For anyone who’s causing the U.S. grief, that is something that is going to cause a lot of sleepless nights for the foreseeable future. Okay. That’s it from me. I’m probably gonna have another one today. So stay tuned, take care.

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