Zawahiri eliminated but no end to war on terror yet

Monday August 08 2022
Zawahir pix

A frame grab from a video provided by the SITE Intelligence Group on February 12, 2012, shows Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri making an announcement at an undisclosed location in a video-relayed audio message posted on jihadist forums.

By Poreg

US drones have killed the Osama bin Laden’s successor as the head of Al Qaeda, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul but the battle against multiple terror groups in and around Afghanistan, including Pakistan, is far from won.

Al-Zawahiri was living in the Sherpur residential area of Kabul with his family, not in an isolated military facilities as his master, Osama bin Laden, did when US Seal landed with guns to put him down.

The US has claimed that its mission was achieved with ‘precision’ and there were no known civilian casualties.   

Expectedly, the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan have reacted angrily to al-Zawahiri’s killing, describing it as violating Doha Agreement. After coming to power on August 15 last year, the Taliban leadership wanted the world to believe that it has distanced itself from Al Qaeda.

The Doha Agreement was negotiated by Afghanistan-born US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha (Qatar) to end the long war on terror that saw US and Nato troops operating inside Afghanistan for almost 20 years, from 2001 to 2021.

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It was part of the ‘agreement’ that the Taliban as well as the US will resist using force while the US moved its troops out of the country. The Taliban had given an assurance that it would not allow the use of Afghan soil by any terrorist groups operating against countries in the region and proceed with counter-terrorism efforts.

This clause of the Doha Agreement was scarcely honoured by the new rulers of Afghanistan whose links with Al Qaeda were perhaps never snapped, though as years progressed Al Qaeda began to look weaker and weaker. Both Taliban and Al Qaeda faced a more fierce and ruthless rival called ISIS or the Islamic State.  

The Taliban criticism of the US action was difficult to accept because in the first place it had not acknowledged al-Zawahiri’s presence in Afghanistan, suggesting he was ensconced in Pakistan or somewhere else. But from his secretive safe shell inside Afghanistan, al-Zawahiri continued to guide various terror groups.

On many occasions in the past he regularly spoke in support of Jihad in India and liked to provoke the people of Kashmir, telling them it was their ‘religious duty’ to fight in Kashmir. Following the recent Hijab controversy in Karnataka, al-Zawahiri had announced the formation of Al Qaeda in India. And has given a call to ‘flood’ into the North-east.

Continuing his campaign to provoke people against India, he had (in)famously told Pakistanis in 2003 that the then President of Pakistan, Gen Pervez Musharraf, was going to flee the country after handing over power to the Hindus!  

It is no secret that the goals and interests of most Islamist terror groups with origins in and around South Asia (Pakistan-Afghanistan belt in particular) converge. Like the rest of the flock, Taliban wants to establish Sharia rule in Afghanistan. The idea was opposed by a large section of Afghans, particularly women for whom the Taliban appeared to have little respect. The Jihadists openly advocated waging of Jihad against infidels as the favoured method to achieve their aim.

Bin Laden, Saudi born, choose the Afghanistan-Pakistan area as his headquarters.

His Al Qaeda found enthusiastic response among both the religious zealots and the ‘establishment’ in Pakistan. It is significant that bin Laden was killed in his hideout near a Pakistani military academy in May 2011, exposing the repeated Pakistani lie that he was not in the country.

President Joe Biden has said that no matter where they are, the US will continue to hunt terrorists who want to inflict harm on America and the rest of the world. The US has shown, he said, its capacity to trace these elements anywhere.

It will be interesting to watch if the US resolve to take out all terror groups extends to action against the likes of Lahore based Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and his Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), who had perpetrated mayhem in Mumbai in 2008 – a fact confirmed by a prime minister of Pakistan a decade later. More so, because in 2019, Imran Khan, then Prime Minister of Pakistan, had said that between 30,000 and 40,000 armed terrorists were operating from areas under Pakistani control. This fact, he added, was hidden from the world by previous rulers of his country, who were claiming to be part of the so-called war on terror.

For long Pakistan used to be regularly described as the principal den of terrorists and their safe haven. All the while, of course, Islamabad denied the charge even after President Donald Trump, had publicly humiliated Pakistan for its duplicitous role in the ‘war on terror’.

While reacting to the attack on al-Zawahiri, a Taliban spokesman said that such actions jeopardized the ‘available opportunities’. Presumably, it meant the efforts for ushering in normality in Afghanistan and good US-Afghan relations.

The reference to ‘opportunities’ is mystifying because the Afghan Taliban has already weakened—if not destroyed altogether—the window of ‘opportunities’. Obstinately rejecting appeals of the international community and that of its own people, especially women, the Afghan Taliban has refused to renounce its regressive policies.

By sheltering and defending the likes of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Afghan Taliban is perhaps further delaying the chances of improving the life and living standards of its own people.

Disclaimer:  The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of The Citizen.