WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (MENA) - The killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda and one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, demonstrates that the United States is still able to carry out precision strikes in Afghanistan after last year’s troop withdrawal, The Washington Post quoted security experts as saying.
US President Joe Biden said in an address to the nation Monday that Zawahiri’s death — after he evaded capture for decades — sent a clear message: “No matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.”
Biden said Zawahiri’s death should help ensure Afghanistan can no longer “become a terrorist safe haven” and a “launching pad” for attacks against the United States.
Analysts say that in the past, al-Qaeda has adjusted to the loss of leaders, with new figures emerging in their place. Today, though, the group is splintered, with branches and affiliates spanning the globe from West Africa to India. The question remains whether those groups will focus on local conflicts or coalesce for more global ambitions.
Charles Lister, a terrorism expert at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said al-Qaeda “now faces an acute succession crisis.” Senior leader Saif al-Adel is technically the next in line to take the helm, but he is based in Iran, which has caused affiliates to question his credibility in the past, Lister wrote Monday.
His potential ascension could be the “death knell” for al-Qaeda’s aspirations as a global organization as affiliates deepen their independence from the group, Lister said.
Al-Qaeda hasn’t carried out any major terrorist attacks in the United States or Europe in recent years, following bombings that killed 52 people in London in 2005. Some attackers were inspired by al-Qaeda, such as a Saudi military trainee who killed three American sailors at a US base in Florida in December 2019. A knife-wielding assailant who fatally stabbed a man and a woman in an attack near London Bridge that same year had previously been a member of an al-Qaeda-inspired cell.