Al-Zawahri's Killing Reveals a Worrisome Alliance

Al-Qaeda leader must have been hiding in Kabul with Taliban's blessing: Fred Kaplan
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2022 3:16 PM CDT
Al-Zawahri's Killing Reveals a Worrisome Alliance
This frame grab from video shows al-Qaida's leader Ayman al-Zawahri in a videotape issued Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006.   (militant photo via AP video, File)

For journalist Fred Kaplan, the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri stands out not so much for the event itself. Al-Qaeda "is far from the potent global force that it was a decade ago," writes Kaplan at Slate, and while al-Zawahri certainly had a key role in planning 9/11 and other terror attacks, he had kept so quiet in recent years that some figured he was already dead. No, the killing stands out for what it reveals, argues Kaplan: a worrisome apparent alliance. That al-Zawahri was killed at the hands of the US in a drone strike on a safe house in the Afghan capital is "a bigger deal than it sounds like" because it indicates the Taliban knew he was there and were OK with it.

"This means that, contrary to the Taliban's assurances, they have been plotting a revival of their alliance with [al-Qaeda]," writes Kaplan, though he sees the possibility that al-Zawahri’s killing may take a bite out of that apparent alliance. After all, his targeted killing exposes the fact that the US sees the dotted line between al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The editors of Bloomberg have a similar view and recommend a tough stance. "The Taliban clearly can't be trusted to uphold its promises to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base. ... The Taliban have been pursuing aid and international recognition ever since; they should receive neither as long as they continue to coddle terrorists."

Former US deputy assistant secretary of defense William F. Wechsler sounds a similar tune for the Atlantic Council, but one that zeroes in on the Haqqani network. It's allied with the Taliban, reportedly helped get al-Zawahri into Kabul and, after the strike, is said to have helped get his family out. The administration has confirmed that, but it's not yet clear whether other Taliban leaders were a close party to the arrangement. "If [the Taliban] did provide sanctuary, then the commitments they signed in Doha were meaningless. If they didn’t, then they should take action against the Haqqanis," Wechsler writes. "In either case, the Taliban suddenly now has a lot more to prove to the outside world. A good place to start would be to hand over Mark Frerichs, the innocent American hostage taken by the Haqqanis over two years ago." (More Ayman al-Zawahri stories.)

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