Biden declares ‘justice delivered’ after drone strike kills Al Qaeda chief

President Biden introduced Monday that Al Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahiri, a key plotter of the Sept. 11 assaults, was killed in a CIA drone strike he ordered concentrating on the terrorist chief in Afghanistan.

One of many world’s most needed terrorists, Zawahiri helped oversee the 2001 assaults on New York and the Pentagon, working intently with former Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, and had led the group during the last decade since Bin Laden’s loss of life.

The 71-year-old Egyptian was killed in a drone strike at 6:48 p.m. native time Saturday at a residential location in Kabul, which fell to the Taliban a 12 months in the past nearly instantly after Biden ordered the final U.S. forces to withdraw — a improvement that many feared would result in extra terrorist exercise in Afghanistan’s capital.

“Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden mentioned from the Blue Room balcony, as he remained in seclusion contained in the White Home residence after testing constructive for the coronavirus in a rebound case. “No matter how long it takes, no matter how long you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.”

Afghanistan, Biden continued, “can’t be a launching pad against the United States. We’re going to see to it that won’t happen.”

A decade after Navy SEALs killed Bin Laden throughout a daring raid on his closely fortified compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad, Pakistan, Zawahiri’s whereabouts had remained a thriller.

However U.S. intelligence officers, a senior administration official mentioned, tracked Zawahiri and his household to a secure home in downtown Kabul the place they moved earlier this 12 months. Over the subsequent a number of months, officers noticed Zawahiri on a balcony, the place he was ultimately struck and killed in a plan devised to attenuate the chance to his household and civilians within the closely populated space.

Biden, the official mentioned, was first briefed in April, obtained updates on the intelligence all through Might and June, and gave the ultimate go-ahead for the assault after a gathering with high Cupboard and nationwide safety advisors on July 25, the place all of the individuals expressed assist for the mission.

5 days later, a drone carried out the assault, firing two Hellfire missiles at Zawahiri on the balcony, killing him and him alone, in accordance with the official. In contrast to the operation concentrating on Bin Laden, which lasted 40 minutes and ended with 5 individuals killed, together with one in every of Bin Laden’s sons, the drone strike was carried out with none U.S. army presence on the bottom in Afghanistan — “carefully planned,” Biden mentioned, to attenuate collateral harm. “There were no civilian casualties,” he mentioned, praising the intelligence officers who helped plan and execute the strike.

The Taliban was lengthy conscious of Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul, the senior administration official mentioned. They added that members of the Haqqani community, a terrorist group that’s a part of the Taliban authorities, whisked away the terrorist’s family members shortly after the strike in an effort to cover their presence within the metropolis.

The group’s harboring of Zawahiri, the administration official added, amounted to a violation of the Doha settlement between the U.S. and the Taliban, underneath which the group agreed to not cooperate with terrorist teams.

Biden, lengthy skeptical in regards to the army’s dedication to the struggle in Afghanistan, famously cautioned President Obama in regards to the dangers of the 2011 Bin Laden raid when serving as vice chairman.

Ending the struggle there after 20 years of battle was amongst Biden’s high first-year priorities, and he pushed forward with the drawdown within the face of warnings from the Pentagon, scoffing on the potential for the nation’s former authorities to fall to the Taliban simply weeks earlier than it did. The international coverage debacle compelled the White Home to scramble to airlift hundreds of susceptible Afghans to security, as a president who ran on expertise and competency noticed his approval drop.

The profitable strike on Zawahiri, Biden mentioned, validated his personal rationale for ending the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, which was predicated partially on a perception that counterterrorism operations may nonetheless be carried out and not using a everlasting presence on the bottom.

“I made the decision that after 20 years of war, the United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm,” the president mentioned. “I made a promise to the American people that we would continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We’ve done just that.”

Senate Majority Chief Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised Biden for “decisive action that brings final justice to a loathsome mass murderer … who helped orchestrate the cold-blooded murder of thousands of my fellow New Yorkers on 9/11.”

However a number of Republicans, whereas praising the intelligence officers concerned, criticized Biden for final 12 months’s messy pullout of Afghanistan, suggesting that Zawahiri’s harboring by the Taliban in Kabul underscores how the scenario there has made the world much less secure.

“Our chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan opened the door for Al Qaeda to operate freely inside the country to conduct external operations against the United States and our allies again,” mentioned Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the rating GOP member of the Home International Affairs Committee.

In a press release, Home Minority Chief Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) known as for a labeled briefing “to discuss the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the region over the past year.”

Biden, in his transient prime-time handle to the nation, reminded the nation of Zawahiri’s central function in quite a few Al Qaeda assaults, together with the 2000 bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole in Yemen and naturally Sept. 11.

Talking to family members of these killed within the assaults on the World Commerce Heart, the Pentagon and aboard United Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pa., Biden expressed hope that Zawahiri’s loss of life “will be one more measure of closure.”