Experts react to Ayman al-Zawahiri’s death

(NewsNation) — Ayman al-Zawahiri, the successor to Osama bin Laden as the leader of Al-Qaeda, was confirmed dead Monday following a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan over the weekend.

Al-Zawahiri was a fixture on the FBI’s terrorism most wanted list, and is credited as the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. In 1998, he was indicted for bombing U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. He was also the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which is believed to have killed Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat in 1981.

President Joe Biden announced Zawahiri’s death in a prime time speech reminiscent of former President Barack Obama telling the world that bin Laden died in 2011. Reaction from the world has largely been positive, though some have brought up concerns that Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul could be a bad sign.

President Joe Biden

“He carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens, American service members, American diplomats and American interests,” Biden said in his remarks from the White House balcony. “Now, justice has been delivered. And this terrorist leader is no more.”

Former President Barack Obama

Former President Barack Obama said he hopes this news provides peace to 9/11 families.

“Tonight’s news is also proof that it’s possible to root out terrorism without being at war in Afghanistan. And I hope it provides a small measure of peace to the 9/11 families and everyone else who has suffered at the hands of Al-Qaeda.”

Taliban spokesman

The Taliban — which is the ultraconservative political and religious faction presiding in Afghanistan — had something to say as well, following the announcement of al-Zawahiri’s death.  

According to Reuters, their spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a statement the ruling Islamist extremists strongly condemned the killing as a violation of “international principles” and the 2020 agreement on a U.S. troop withdrawal.

The Taliban spokesperson added: “Such actions are a repetition of the failed experiences of the past 20 years and are against the interests of the United States of America, Afghanistan and the region.” 

Brett Bruen

Brett Bruen, the director of global outreach during the Obama administration, said the fact that al-Zawahiri was in Kabul might be proof that the Taliban is letting Al-Qaeda leaders operate openly.

Biden has said the U.S. will have “over the horizon” intelligence gathering capability despite troops being out of the country. Bruen is skeptical the country can pull it off.

“There’s no question [the capability] exists, the bigger issue is, how much do we have that capacity?” Bruen said during Monday’s “On Balance with Leland Vittert.”

Ambassador Nathan Sales

Sales, who was part of the Trump administration’s efforts to kill terrorists abroad, agrees with Bruen.

“Today’s victory is a tactical victory that points to a very large strategic problem,” he said during Monday’s “On Balance with Leland Vittert.” “That strategic problem is the longstanding and enduring relationship between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.”

Ret. Master Chief SEAL Steve Gonzalez

Gonzalez, who was deployed multiple times to Afghanistan and Iraq, says there are larger questions but overall, this is a good day.

“This is a huge blow to [Al-Qaeda]. We’re impacting not only what they did today and yesterday, but also what they want to do in the future,” Gonzalez said Monday on “NewsNation Prime.”

“This will have a huge effect because this wasn’t just a low-level member or a mid-level member. This individual had terror links dating back decades.”

Ret. Lt. Gen. Richard Newton

Newton, former assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force, called al-Zawahiri’s death a “significant win.”

“There’s a global message here as well that for terrorists such as al-Zawahiri, whether they work with Al-Qaeda or ISIS or so forth: You can run but you can’t hide,” Newton said on “Rush Hour.”

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement on the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri:

“President Biden announced that, at his direction, the United States killed Ayman al-Zawahiri: a top leader of Al-Qaeda, an enemy of America and one of the masterminds behind the attacks on September 11th.  The President is to be commended for his strong leadership to keep Americans safe and to deliver justice to this despicable terrorist.

“Under President Biden and our nation’s many devoted national security professionals, America’s counterterrorism capabilities remain unrivaled, and our nation’s resolve to hunt down terrorists who threaten our families remains ironclad.”


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