The draw back: US strike exhibits Afghanistan nonetheless terror base

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is holding out the CIA operation that killed al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri as a monumental strike in opposition to the worldwide terror community chargeable for the Sept. 11 assaults of 2001. However there is a draw back, too.

The drone strike is also placing into stark reduction the mounting proof that after 20 years of America’s army occupation — after which sudden departure — Afghanistan has as soon as once more develop into an energetic staging floor for Islamic terror teams trying to assault the West.

Thel operation, carried out over the weekend after not less than six months spent monitoring actions by al-Zawahri and his household, got here simply weeks earlier than the one-year anniversary of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from the nation.

The Biden administration is making the case that the operation exhibits Individuals at house and allies overseas that america hasn’t misplaced focus — or the power to strike terrorists within the area — and validates its resolution to finish twenty years of combating in Afghanistan with its withdrawal.

Asserting the strike from the White Home, President Joe Biden mentioned Monday evening that “justice” had been exacted on a pacesetter who in current weeks had recorded movies calling for his followers to assault america and allies. And the White Home on Tuesday framed the operation was an infinite counterterrorism win.

“The president has made good on his phrase after we left. He mentioned america didn’t must maintain sending 1000’s of American women and men to battle and die in Afghanistan,” White Home Nationwide Safety Adviser Jake Sullivan mentioned on NBC’s “As we speak” present. “After 20 years of conflict to maintain this nation secure, he mentioned we’d be capable of proceed to focus on and take out terrorists in Afghanistan with out troops on the bottom. And over this weekend, with this swift and decisive motion that he ordered, he delivered on that promise.”

However as particulars of the operation proceed to emerge, the administration has additionally revealed troubling proof of al-Qaida’s presence and of the Taliban as soon as once more providing refuge to the group that was behind the 9/11 assaults on america.

White Home officers imagine that senior members of the Haqqani Community, an Islamist terror group with sturdy ties to the Taliban, have been conscious that al-Zawahri was in Kabul. Sullivan mentioned that whereas al-Zawahri wasn’t concerned in day-to-day planning on the time of his killing, he continued to play an energetic position in directing al-Qaida and posed “a extreme menace” in opposition to the U.S. and Americans.

Issues about al-Qaida efforts to regroup inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan are hardly new.

Earlier than the strike, U.S. army officers, together with Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Employees, had mentioned al-Qaida was attempting to reconstitute in Afghanistan, the place it faces restricted threats from the now-ruling Taliban. Navy leaders have warned that the group nonetheless aspired to assault the U.S.

Al-Qaida management has reportedly performed an advisory position because the Taliban returned to energy within the leadup as much as the U.S. withdrawal, in accordance with a U.N. Safety Council report final month.

The U.N. report additionally famous that ISIS-Okay — the group that carried out a large assault that killed 13 U.S. troops and dozens of Afghans close to the Kabul Worldwide Airport simply days earlier than the U.S. accomplished its withdrawal final 12 months — has develop into more and more energetic in northern and japanese Afghanistan. That is a fear for the West although ISIS-Okay and the Taliban espouse completely different ideologies and pursuits, with ISIS-Okay finishing up a bloody insurgency in opposition to the Taliban and spiritual minorities throughout Afghanistan.

“Zawahri’s presence in post-withdrawal Afghanistan means that, as feared, the Taliban is as soon as extra granting secure haven to the leaders of al-Qaida – a gaggle with which it has by no means damaged,” mentioned Nathan Gross sales, ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism in the course of the Trump administration who’s now a senior fellow on the Atlantic Council. “Zawahiri was dwelling in a safehouse within the coronary heart of Kabul, which solely occurs with the Taliban’s approval.”

That al-Zawahri was dwelling in a Kabul neighborhood and never in rural Afghanistan as beforehand believed, “tells you that he bought actually comfy” beneath the safety of the Taliban, mentioned Colin Clarke, director of analysis at The Soufan Group, a world intelligence and safety agency.

“These entities work hand in glove,” Clarke mentioned of the Taliban and al-Qaida. “There’s not the separation that others would have you ever imagine.”

The Taliban had promised within the 2020 Doha Settlement on the phrases of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that they might not harbor al-Qaida members or these looking for to assault the U.S.

The Taliban have been fast to sentence the U.S. strike as a “a transparent violation of worldwide rules and the Doha Settlement,” although they didn’t acknowledge that al-Zawahri was killed. The U.S. gave no forewarning to the Taliban authorities, which america doesn’t acknowledge, that it was finishing up the operation.

“Such actions are a repetition of the failed experiences of the previous 20 years and are in opposition to the pursuits of america of America, Afghanistan, and the area,” the Taliban assertion mentioned.

Whether or not america takes any additional motion in opposition to the Taliban for harboring al-Zawahri stays to be seen. Sullivan advised NBC that the U.S. had already “engaged” with the Taliban about al-Zawahri’s presence following Sunday’s strike, however he would not preview any particular steps the administration may take.

The Taliban stay sanctioned by the U.S. authorities for its position harboring al-Qaida earlier than the 9/11 assaults. After the collapse of the U.S.-backed authorities in Kabul final summer time, the Biden administration froze billions of {dollars} in belongings belonging to Afghanistan’s central financial institution to forestall the belongings from falling beneath Taliban management. A few of that cash has since been freed for humanitarian assist to deal with the nation’s dire starvation disaster.

Senate Republican Chief Mitch McConnell was fast to congratulate Biden on the operation, but in addition made the case that it “additional signifies that Afghanistan is once more changing into a significant thicket of terrorist exercise following the president’s resolution to withdraw U.S. forces.”

“Killing al-Zawahri is a hit, however the underlying resurgence of al-Qaida terrorists into Afghanistan is a rising menace that was foreseeable and avoidable,” McConnell mentioned. “The administration wants a complete plan to rebuild our capability to fight it.”

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