The U.S. drone strike that killed al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri on the balcony of a Kabul secure home intensified international scrutiny Tuesday of Afghanistan‘s Taliban rulers and additional undermined their efforts to safe worldwide recognition and desperately wanted help.
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. Practically a 12 months after the U.S. navy’s chaotic pullout from Afghanistan, al-Zawahri’s killing raises questions concerning the involvement of Taliban leaders in sheltering a mastermind of the 9/11 terror assaults and certainly one of America’s most-wanted fugitives.
The secure home is in Kabul’s upscale Shirpur neighborhood, house to a number of Taliban leaders who had moved into mansions of former prime Afghan officers of the toppled Western-backed authorities.
The Taliban initially sought to explain the strike as America violating the Doha deal, which additionally features a Taliban pledge to not shelter these looking for to assault the U.S. — one thing al-Zawahri had carried out for years in web movies and on-line screeds. The Taliban have but to say who was killed within the strike.
In the meantime, rumors persist of unease within the Taliban ranks — significantly between the highly effective group often known as the Haqqani community, which apparently sheltered al-Zawahri, and different Taliban figures.
“The killing of Ayman al-Zawahri has raised many questions,” mentioned one Pakistani intelligence official, who spoke on situation of anonymity to The Related Press as he wasn’t licensed to talk publicly to reporters. Al-Zawahri took over as al-Qaida’s chief after Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in 2011, in an operation by U.S. Navy SEALs.
“The Taliban have been conscious of his presence in Kabul, and in the event that they weren’t conscious of it, they should clarify their place,” the official mentioned.
The strike early Sunday shook awake Shirpur, as soon as house to historic buildings bulldozed in 2003 to make approach for luxurious properties for officers in Afghanistan’s Western-backed authorities and worldwide help organizations. After the U.S. withdrawal in August 2021, the Taliban elite started taking a few of the deserted properties there.
The home the place al-Zawahri stayed was the house to a prime aide to senior Taliban chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, based on a senior U.S. intelligence official. Taliban officers blocked AP journalists in Kabul from reaching the broken home on Tuesday.
The Haqqani community is an Afghan Islamist rebel group, constructed across the household of the identical identify. Within the Nineteen Eighties, it fought Soviet forces and over the previous 20 years, it battled U.S.-led NATO troops and the previous Afghanistan authorities.
Sirajuddin Haqqani has additionally served as the primary deputy chief of the Taliban motion since 2016. Since final August, he additionally served the appointed inside ministry of the Taliban authorities. The U.S. authorities maintains a $10 million bounty on him for “quite a few vital kidnappings and assaults in opposition to U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan authorities and civilian targets.”
However the Haqqanis, from Afghanistan’s jap Khost province, have disagreed with others within the Taliban management, largely from the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Some imagine Sirajuddin Haqqani desires extra energy. Different Taliban figures have opposed the Haqqanis’ violent assaults in opposition to civilians in Kabul and elsewhere.
“It appears to me that the facility battle throughout the Taliban is basic. It’s not essentially concerning the U.S. or concerning the worldwide neighborhood. It’s concerning the new regime, tips on how to share energy throughout the new regime, who will get what place, who will get to manage what ministries, to determine the final insurance policies and so forth,” mentioned Jerome Drevon, the Worldwide Disaster Group’s senior analyst learning Islamist militant teams.
“It’s not that shocking that the constructing can be owned by the Haqqani household. … That creates a pressure between what the Taliban motion is, particularly by way of the way it’s making an attempt to succeed in out to the worldwide neighborhood, to normalize itself and so forth,” he mentioned.
The timing of the strike additionally could not come at a worse time politically for the Taliban. The militants face worldwide condemnation for refusing to reopen colleges for women above the sixth grade, regardless of earlier guarantees. The United Nations mission to Afghanistan additionally criticized the Taliban for human rights abuses beneath their rule.
The U.S. and its allies have reduce off billions in growth funds that stored the federal government afloat partly over the abuses, in addition to froze billions in Afghan nationwide belongings.
This despatched the already shattered economic system into free fall, growing poverty dramatically and creating one of many world’s worst humanitarian crises. Tens of millions, struggling to feed their households, are stored alive by a large U.N.-led aid effort.
The Taliban have been making an attempt to reopen the faucets to that help and their reserves. Nonetheless, al-Zawahri’s killing already has been seized upon by the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken as an indication that the Taliban “grossly violated the Doha Settlement and repeated assurances … that they might not enable Afghan territory for use by terrorists to threaten the safety of different nations.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, nevertheless, alleged the U.S. violated the Doha Settlement by launching the strike. Afghanistan’s state-run tv channel — now beneath the Taliban — reported that President Joe Biden mentioned al-Zawahri had been killed.
“The killing of Ayman al-Zawahri closes a chapter of al-Qaida,” mentioned Imtiaz Gul, the chief director of the Islamabad-based Middle for Analysis and Safety Research.
Within the Mideast, al-Zawahri’s killing coincided with the thirty second anniversary of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, which sparked U.S. navy presence in Saudi Arabia — the identical presence that bin Laden pointed to in launching the 9/11 assaults. Anwar Gargash, a senior diplomat within the United Arab Emirates, famous the timing.
It is “an opportunity for the area to ponder and mirror on the absurdity of extremism, terrorism and reckless navy adventures and the way all of this frayed (the area’s) material,” Gargash wrote on Twitter. The “classes and teachings are current, and hope rests on the nations of the area uniting collectively to ensure safety and shared growth.”
Related Press writers Jon Gambrell and Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.