President Joe Biden marked the death of al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri, the successor of Osama bin Laden, with a somber address to the nation nearly a year after U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan after two decades of war.
“Now, justice has been delivered,” Biden said. “This terrorist leader is no more.”
“We make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out,” the president said.
Al Zawahiri died Sunday morning Afghanistan time after the United States conducted a “precision” drone strike on his safe house in Kabul, the president said. He credited the U.S. with “relentlessly seeking” al Zawahiri under the last three administrations before he took office.
“After carefully considering the clear and convincing evidence of his location, I authorized a precision strike that would remove him from the battlefield — once and for all,” Biden said. “One week ago, after being advised that the conditions were optimal, I gave the final approval to go get him and the mission was a success.”
“None of his family members were hurt and there were no civilian causalities,” Biden continued. “I’m sharing this news with the American people now after confirming the mission’s total success through the painstaking work of our counterterrorism community and key allies and partners.”
This did not include the Taliban, which denounced the strike as a violation of the withdrawal agreement. The Biden administration told reporters that Taliban leaders knew al Zawahiri was in Afghanistan during a briefing before the president spoke.
The operation has been perceived as a short-term win for so-called over-the-horizon counterterrorism capabilities or gathering intelligence and conducting strikes without having the U.S. military in the country. Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal raised concerns about the lack of in-country surveillance and the potential for future threats. There are no known strikes in Afghanistan between the withdrawal and al Zawahiri’s killing.
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