Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Bin Laden’s former right hand has reappeared. does it matter?

news analysis

A recently released video suggests that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri may still be alive. Some national security experts have underestimated Zawahiri’s charisma and apparent lack of leadership abilities, but others have pointed out that al-Qaeda flourished in the past decade under Osama bin Laden’s former chief lieutenant – here Even gaining US support in some conflicts.

After bin Laden’s death in 2011, many celebrated the occasion as a victory on two fronts: not only did the United States bring bin Laden to justice, but al-Qaeda to the less dominant Zawahiri.

A RAND Corporation analysis of September 11, 2001 explains this thinking, assuming that US officials have given Zawahiri a low priority because of his incompetence.

Analysts Colin P. Clark and Asfandyar Meir wrote for RAND last year, “The US government has been relatively cynical about al-Qaeda since Zawahiri took power in 2011.” “Some terrorism analysts also claim that a living Zawahiri has done more harm to al-Qaeda than a dead person.”

A similar sentiment was expressed after a video featuring Zawahiri was released on September 11 – a video that debunks reports from last year that the al-Qaeda chief was dead.

“I bet you a huge sum that the old recordings of Zawahiri have been seen and planted by more jihadist watchers than jihadists and sympathizers,” the journalist said. Hassan I. Hassan, who incorrectly reported Zawahir died last November.

“Excerpts from al-Qaeda’s release today of al-Sahab: … Zawahiri is still deadly boring,” wrote Charles Lister, Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute. “Also, there’s nothing more to note – AQC remains peripheral to AQ globally.”

But despite Zawahiri’s lack of charisma, others have argued that he has nonetheless been an effective killer with the blood of thousands – including the victims of 9/11 – on his hands. In their analysis for RAND last September, Clark and Meir also described how the 70-year-old Egyptian helped al-Qaeda survive over the past decade, as the United States focused on other groups such as ISIS. Was.

“Zawahiri, for example, is against state-building – a stance that has shielded al-Qaeda and provided relative relief to the group as Islamic State becomes a more immediate target of US counterterrorism efforts,” he wrote. “As the United States intensified attacks against Islamic State, harmony between al-Qaeda affiliates and its allies improved.”

Not only has Zawahiri’s relatively low profile helped al-Qaeda avoid destruction; The United States has also provided aid to so-called “moderate” Zawahiri loyalists in Syria and Yemen.

In Syria, for example, the Obama administration funneled weapons to al-Qaeda affiliate Jabat al-Nusra in 2012 in support of an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the country’s President Bashar al-Assad.

This support prompted then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to consider: “We know that al-Qaeda-Zawahiri-is backing the opposition in Syria.”

“Are We Supporting Al-Qaeda in Syria?” Clinton told a reporter for CBS News in 2012.

Yug Times Photos
A Somali security soldier points his weapon at a poster containing a picture of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri during an anti-al-Shabaab rally in Mogadishu on February 23, 2014. (Abdifita Hashi Nor/AFP via Getty Images)

The publication of a 2015 article in Foreign Affairs – Council on Foreign Relations made the case for why the United States should support al-Qaeda.

“The instability in the Middle East following the Arab revolutions and the meteoric rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) requires Washington to reconsider its policy towards al-Qaeda, particularly targeting Zawahiri. for,” the article said. Title: “Accepting Al-Qaeda.”

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“Destabilizing al-Qaeda at this time may actually work against US efforts to defeat ISIS.”

However, antiwar.com editorial director Scott Horton argues that support for Zawahiri loyalists is seditious, and has contributed to the continued instability in the region.

“Many of these similar [Zawahiri loyalists] helped the Sunni-based insurgency kill 4,000 of the 4,500 American soldiers killed in Iraq War II,” writes Horton in his 2021 book “Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism.”

And on the argument that al-Qaeda is preferable to ISIS, Horton wrote, “tell the survivors of the thousands of American civilian and military victims killed by these terrorists over the past 30 years.”

Horton points out that the United States’ support for al-Qaeda fighters continues today as the country continues to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, which in turn is arming al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the ongoing Yemen Civil War. Is.

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“In a very real sense, President Obama and Trump” [and now Biden] The US Army, Air Force, Navy and Special Operations Forces in the service of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri have been put at war again, Horton wrote in “already enough”.

Meanwhile, officials are speculating as to where Zawahiri might be now.

George Macmillan, a security contractor working on intelligence and surveillance issues in Afghanistan, told The Epoch Times that Zawahiri is likely hiding in West Pakistan – an assessment shared by several national security experts. Macmillan explained that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, has long provided asylum in an attempt to project jihadists as allies against India.

“Zawahiri probably still plays a major role in that,” McMillan said.

In recent weeks, Zawahiri may have slipped into Afghanistan in the wake of the United States’ withdrawal, according to former CIA acting director Michael Morrell.

“We think so, which means the Taliban are sheltering Zawahiri today,” Morell said Sunday in response to a question on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“The Taliban is sheltering al-Qaeda today. And I think that’s a very important point.”

Horton said he thinks it is unfair that US officials are lamenting the Taliban’s tolerance of al-Qaeda veterans when they still support Zawahiri loyalists in Yemen.

“I don’t want to hear about ‘safe haven’ [in Afghanistan] From those who support al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen and Syria,” Horton told The Epoch Times in a July interview.

Zawahiri was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list as he was indicted for his alleged role in the August 7, 1998 bombings on the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. Information that leads to the suspicion of a terrorist leader.

When contacted by The Epoch Times about Zawahiri’s apparent re-emergence, the FBI declined to comment.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

ken silva

Ken Silva covers national security issues for The Epoch Times. His reporting background also includes cyber security, crime and offshore finance – including three years as a reporter in the British Virgin Islands and two years in the Cayman Islands. [email protected] . contact on

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

Bin Laden's former right hand has reappeared. does it matter?
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