President Biden on Monday claimed that a US drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, that was carried out over the weekend killed top al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Biden said that US intelligence located Zawahiri earlier this year and that he moved to downtown Kabul to “reunite with members of his immediate family.” Biden said he authorized the drone strike last week.
Administration officials told the media that the drone strike was launched by the CIA. It’s the first known US drone strike in Afghanistan since the US completed the withdrawal from the country on August 30, 2021.
Biden claimed that no civilians were killed in the strike, but the US is known for undercounting civilian casualties. The last known US drone strike in Afghanistan occurred on August 29, 2021, and killed 10 civilians, including seven children. Initially, the US military claimed the strike killed ISIS-K members and described it as “righteous.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement on Monday that a US drone strike hit a residence in Kabul over the weekend. Mujahid strongly condemned the strike, saying it violated the Doha agreement the US and Taliban signed that paved the way for the US withdrawal.
Zawahiri was the successor to Osama bin Laden and served as the al-Qaeda founders’ number two during the planning of the September 11 attacks. During Washington’s almost 20-year war in Afghanistan, Zawahiri eluded US forces. The UN said in 2021 that Zawahiri was believed to be somewhere in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan
Before the September 11 attacks, the Taliban offered the US to put bin Laden on trial. After the attacks, President George W. Bush rejected an offer from the Taliban to hand bin Laden over.