Always Al-Zawahiri


August 15, 2022

Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed on July 31, 2022 in Kabul, Afghanistan by the firing from a US drone of two Hellfire R9X missiles, a non-explosive device designed to kill individually. The strike was authorized by US President Joe Biden. Al-Zawahiri helped plan the September 11 attacks and became the leader of al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden's death in 2011. Wanted by the United States from 2001, he has been in hiding ever since. This strike comes a year after the end of the war in Afghanistan and the chaotic withdrawal of American troops. As part of the withdrawal agreement reached by the Taliban and former US President Donald Trump and accepted by his successor Joe Biden, the Taliban had agreed not to provide sanctuary to those involved in Al-Qaeda or other he other terrorist organizations and the United States had agreed to conduct military operations in Afghanistan only with the consent of the Taliban government.

Return of Al-Zawahiri to Kabul and American tracking

Wanted for more than 20 years by the United States, Al-Zawahiri has long been hiding in the tribal areas on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, most likely on the Pakistani coast. He takes advantage of the return of the Taliban to power to return to Afghanistan. The CIA first learns that his family is in the Afghan capital and then discovers that he is also installed there, in a residence in the wealthy district of Sherpur, in downtown Kabul. Several villas in this neighborhood are occupied by high-ranking Taliban officials and commanders. A previous strike a year earlier had missed its target and caused civilian deaths. After al-Zawahiri's assassination, US President Joe Biden confirmed that the US intelligence community tracked him in early 2022 as he moved to Kabul. A French diplomatic source speaks of an installation in Kabul in May 2022. The American intelligence services then know the house he occupies, a 3-storey dwelling house where he lives with his family. The New York Times, quoting an American analyst, reported that the stricken house belonged to a senior Taliban official, Sirajuddin Haqqani, influential interior minister in the Taliban government and head of the namesake clan, well established on both sides of Afghanistan-Pakistan border and reputedly close to jihadist groups in Pakistani tribal areas and Pakistani intelligence services. The Haqqani network has a strong presence in eastern Afghanistan and Kabul. The difficulty comes that Al-Zawahiri does not leave his residence, where his family lives, perhaps also other people. The house where he resides is stuck to other houses which makes it dangerous to shoot. The US President specifically requested that this targeted assassination not kill any other people. A previous US strike a year earlier, without the US government specifying who was targeted, had missed its target and caused civilian deaths. In May or June, several scenarios are proposed to the American president. On July 1, a meeting is held in the Situation Room of the White House around the president with several senior American officials, including Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Director of the CIA Bill Burns and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. and a model of the house where Al-Zawahiri lives is even brought there. According to an American diplomatic source, a non-American ground surveillance team carried out scouting. Al-Zawahiri is seen “repeatedly and for long periods of time on a balcony” of his house where he liked to read early in the morning