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August 9, 2022 10:18 pm

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The CIA and the Pentagon are still able to carry out unique, incomparable operations

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Al Zawahiri’s death is not the end of the global terrorism, he was already in decline

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A remotely guided US intelligence killer drone missile hit the house where Ayman al Zawahiri lived in Kabul, on the night of August 1.

Reduced to nothing, surprised in a moment of relaxation on the veranda of the balcony, the missile did not cause other injuries among the family members who were in the internal rooms.

Hunted for years by satellites and drones of the US secret services and armed forces, Ayman al-Zawahiri has been one of the most dangerous and wanted men in the world for at least twenty years.

Zawahiri is the ideologue of al-Qaeda. He is the person who planned the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. He is the theorist of the “global war” on the West and of the “distant enemy”, referring first to Israel and the States United and then to “all the enemies of Islam”.

According to the American secret services, he was ill and for some time no more followed by the new jihadists. After 2011, he was overwhelmed by other Islamist groups, especially the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones.

However, he remains the leading leader of al-Qaeda and, not often, resurfaced in public appearances reading books or sermons that always incited violence, but in boring and unattractive tones for young people.

The son of a professor of pharmacology and grandson of the president of Cairo University, Zawahiri graduated with good results in medicine.

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But he is fascinated and influenced by his uncle Mafhouz Azzam, a critic of secular governments leading Egypt in the 1970s.

His uncle’s radical Islamism becomes his guiding ideology and he starts attending the meetings of the “Muslim Brotherhood”. He studies not only from books, but also the guerrilla techniques and armed actions. Techniques that will be useful to him for years to come.

Ayman founded his first subversive organization, Jamaat al-Jihad with the aim of establishing Islamic theocracy.

He is involved in the assassination attempt that cost President Anwar Sadat’s life on October 6, 1981.

Egypt imprisoned every Islamist he could find and Zawahiri spent three years in state prisons, where he was tortured.

When it comes out, its radicalization is complete. He approaches the Afghan mujahideen. And it is on the border with Pakistan that he will meet Osama Bin Laden. Thus was born the most dangerous couple of Islamist terrorism.

Al Zawahiri joins his organization in Osama’s and together they create Al-Qaeda. Bin-Laden is the charismatic leader, the one who recruits and gathers consensus while al Zawahiri is the ideologue and strategist, bringing with him the military tactics and the vision to attack the West.

The idea of 9/11 was born and matured within the jihadist movement of al Qaeda. For the first time they hit on American soil. It is the West’s counter-response that takes them by surprise. For the first time, NATO is appealing to Article 5 of common defense.

And it is after the attack by the allies that the decline of the Osama-al Zawahiri couple begins.

Ayman takes refuge with his wife and six children in Pakistan. He escapes some attempts to kill him. In one of these, his wife will die.

Osma Bin Laden will also be killed by a CIA drone missile on May 2, 2011.

Al Zawahiri will live in hiding until the CIA finds him in the Shirpur neighborhood of central Kabul. The area where the villa inhabited by al-Zawahiri is located is in a residential area owned by the Afghan Ministry of Defense, and is reserved exclusively for senior officials of the regime. Apparently the house belonged to an important Taliban leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani of the Haqqani tribe, who historically have had links with the Qaedists.

The fact that he was killed in Kabul has two important aspects. The first concerns Afghanistan. The Taliban, who have taken control of the country for a year, continue to offer hospitality to al Qaeda.

This means that the Taliban were not respecting the agreement made in Doha in Qatar, with the United States through which they gained control of the country.

After the end of their 20-year stay in Afghanistan (the longest american war) without an exit strategy, the Americans had reached an understanding with the Taliban. 

They would in fact have obtained the opportunity to seize power, because the exit of NATO left the Afghan defense and security forces alone, but in return they took an oath: the group would no longer ally itself with al Qaeda, as happened between 2000 and 2001, when the then Taliban regime provided protection to the Qaedists before and after the 9/11 attack.

“By hosting and sheltering the Al Qaeda leader in Kabul, the Taliban have grossly violated the Doha Accords and repeated assurances to the world that they would not allow Afghan territory to be used by terrorists to threaten the security of other countries” .

This is what the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, denounced in a statement released after the news of the killing of Ayman al Zawahiri.

His presence in Kabul will be used as evidence that the Taliban deserve to be treated like terrorists. It could turn out that the Taliban themselves handed it over to the Americans. But this will not bring any discount to the way the group will be considered.

Even if it is known that the death of al Zawahiri will not have a great effect on the destinies of the global terrorism (the new generation of jihadists for many years had no longer seen him as a reference leader) and it does not put an end to terrorism, we can say undoubtedly it has value both from a moral and a strategic point of view.

It brings some comfort to the families of the victims of terrorism. Daniel Pearl’s father (the US reporter for the Wall Street Journal, kidnapped and later beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan) was one of the first to congratulate the result of the operation.

But at the same time, at the level of international politics the raid represents a currently unrivaled operational capability of Washington, which sends a clear message to allies and rivals about the US strategic breadth.

It is clearly a success for the intelligence communities and for all those who have been working in the field for over 20 years.

The elimination of Zawahiri without collateral damage makes it clear that despite the US disengagement, the CIA and the Pentagon are still able to carry out unique, incomparable operations. In the confrontation between powers, Washington has reconfirmed to everyone that no other (from China, Russia, India or the Europeans themselves) can match and has capabilities it can achieve.


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