Ayman al-Zawahri, leader of al-Qaida and a plotter of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, has been killed in a drone strike in the Afghan city of Kabul, according to the US government.
Al-Zawahri was the the successor to Osama bin Laden and his death marked “one more measure of closure” to the families of those killed in the 2001 atrocities, US President Joe Biden said during televised remarks on August 1.
The operation came almost a year after American troops exited Afghanistan after decades of fighting there. Daniel Milton, a terrorism expert at the US Military Academy at West Point, and Haroro J Ingram and Andrew Mines, research fellows at the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, explained the significance of the strike on al-Zawahri and what it says about US counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan under the Taliban.
Who was Ayman al-Zawahri?
Ayman al-Zawahri was an Egyptian-born jihadist who became al-Qaida’s top leader in 2011 after his predecessor, Osama bin Laden, was killed by a US operation. Al-Zawahri’s ascent followed years in which al-Qaida’s leadership had been devastated by US drone strikes in Pakistan. Bin Laden had himself been struggling in the years leading up to his death to exert control and unity across al-Qaida’s global network of affiliates.
Al-Zawahri succeeded bin Laden despite a mixed reputation. While he had a long…