WASHINGTON – The United States killed the top al Qaeda leader, a key conspirator of the September 11 attacks, in a drone strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, according to current and former US officials.
Ayman al-Zawahri, who led the group after the death of Osama bin Laden, was killed in an attack in Kabul, the first attack in Afghanistan since US forces left last year and a significant victory for the Biden administration’s counter-terrorism efforts. ,
On September 11, Mr. Jawahar was second in al-Qaeda and was considered by US officials to be the main conspirator of the attacks. While he lacked the charismatic leadership of bin Laden, he deeply shaped Al Qaeda and its terrorist movements with his writings and arguments.
US officials said the attack was not carried out by the military. A former official said the operation was carried out by a CIA agency, with officials refusing to comment.
A senior administration official said the operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties. A second administration official said the White House is expected to brief reporters later Monday night.
“The attack that killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri is a major success of US counter-terrorism efforts. Countless hours of intelligence spent over many years,” said Mick Mulroy, a former CIA officer and senior Pentagon official. The result of the collection.” “She probably believed we would never be able to track her down. But he was wrong.”
Mr. Jawahari had avoided Afghanistan for years. His return to Kabul with the takeover of the Taliban raises questions about the group’s commitment to keeping al Qaeda out of the country.
With the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban, the CIA launched a covert effort to double down on efforts to find Mr. Jawahari, anticipating that the Taliban’s return to power would lower its guard, a man. informed about the effort. ,
a Statement The Taliban condemned the operation and said it attacked a residential house in Kabul’s Sherpur area, a neighborhood of a wealthy city where Taliban government officials frequently visit. The statement said an investigation by Taliban officials concluded that the attack was carried out by a US drone, although it did not provide any evidence to support the claims.
Taliban officials believe the Doha agreement – which outlined the terms of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan – restricts US attacks, something US officials dispute. The residents of Kabul possibly blamed Pakistan for helping with the airstrike.
According to a US analyst, the house that was hit was owned by a top aide of Sirajuddin Haqqani, a senior Taliban government official whom US officials say is close to senior Qaeda figures.
The analyst said strike photos posted on social media suggested a strike by an RX9, a Hellfire missile equipped with long blades, intended to hit targets with kinetic energy to minimize major collateral damage. Is.
In the months since the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, US military and diplomatic officials have been discussing with allies where to move US forces to strike high-value targets in Afghanistan. This so-called over-the-horizon strategy is still in its infancy, and talks about position forces in neighboring Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have progressed slowly.
As the United States was evacuating people from Afghanistan, 10 civilians were killed in a poorly informed drone strike in Kabul. The United States did not initially acknowledge the error, only after it was reported by The New York Times. Since then, the Pentagon and Biden administrations have been taking more precautions to prevent civilian casualties in the attacks.
Even without nearby bases, the United States has unmanned drones as well as manned attack aircraft within striking distance of Afghanistan from United States land bases in the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean and even There is a lot of sending capacity.
Three US officials who arrived on Monday said the attacks were not conducted by the Defense Department or the United States Central Command, Fighter Command with responsibility for Afghanistan, leaving open the possibility that the attack was carried out by CIAJ Todd Bresley, acting Pentagon. The K press secretary declined to comment on the strike.
The US government is currently reviewing its policy on drone strikes against terrorist targets. While the military typically conducts attacks in established war zones, the CIA operates in areas where the United States seeks secrecy over its actions.
Because the Taliban government opposes any drone strikes in its territory, the United States would have preferred to use the CIA to conduct the operation.
While the CIA has its own drones, it will also use military drones, with attacks authority assigned to the agency as the aircraft enters airspace where Defense Department aircraft are not authorized to operate.
Yakub Akbari contributed reporting from Kabul.