Kabul – Afghanistan has condemned the drone attack by the United States in the city of Kabul targeting Al-Qaeda’s leader, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. The United States used two non-explosive Hellfire missiles to take out the leader while trying to avoid casualties.
President Joe Biden has called the attack a necessary move after naming al-Zawahiri as the most wanted enemy. He went on to say the death of al-Zawahiri is a huge blow to Al-Qaeda. Arshad Yusufzai, Pakistan based journalist, agreed with Biden on this aspect but believes the attack was unnecessary as al-Zawahiri was living a mostly retired life.
“I think he was sort of living a quiet retired life. Occasionally issuing statements to his followers, his group or to the world. That is what I believe was happening. If we talk about Al-Qaeda’s strength or capacity, it is going to remain the same. There was nothing happening on their side, at least on our side of the world which is Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Al-Qaeda’s relationship with the Taliban
In 2001 Afghanistan refused to hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States. This protection of the Taliban was the start of the 20-year war that eventually came to an end with the Taliban takeover in August 2021. It is this strong relationship that has allowed Al-Qaeda members to reside in Afghanistan without fearing they might be handed over to the United States, explained Yusufzai.
“That commitment to protect any guests, as the Afghan Taliban would call them, remains the same. Whoever is hiding in Afghanistan, is staying here will not be or cannot be forced out of the country. There are certain reasons for that. The Afghan Taliban are not in a position to make enemies. They are already fighting a difficult war.”
The war against the Islamic State of Khorasan has taken up much of the government’s resources. They are not in a position to make enemies with the other groups that are hiding in Afghanistan. There were also reports the Taliban were aided by Al-Qaeda during the US invasion of the country.
Violating the Doha Agreement
The Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan clearly states that the United States will refrain in interfering in its domestic affairs. The assassination of al-Zawahiri goes against the Doha Agreement. Although the United States has violated the terms of the agreement, Afghanistan has also done the same. Yusufzai explained that by harbouring a known Al-Qaeda member, Afghanistan also broke the terms of the agreement.
“The United States has violated its promise. If you look at it from the Western perspective, they will definitely be questioning the Al-Qaeda presence in Kabul which also violates the point that terrorists will not be harboured, or sanctuary will not be provided to them in Afghanistan. However, the Afghan Taliban would not be bothered about who the opponent is. This problem is definitely going to explode in a way that diplomatic ties will suffer. The ties have already suffered in the past 11 months. I believe this will take it to its deepest point.”
The outcomes of the attack
The violation of the Doha Agreement will result in a lack of trust which could hamper the progress Afghanistan has made opening itself up to the wider world. Those in favour of keeping Afghanistan to itself now have a stronger case to make after the attack, said Yusufzai.
This could also cause dissent within the Afghanistan government. Many questions will be asked from members of the government with regards to the attack and who was harbouring al-Zawahiri, said Yusufzai.
“There are certain groups of people with different thinking in the government. There is a bigger question, who provided the ground intelligence to the Americans? They could not target someone hiding in a house in Afghanistan’s capital. It could easily create problems within the Afghan Taliban movement because they will be suspecting their own comrades.”
The American government had issued a $25 million bounty on al-Zawahiri as they believed he was one of the main people involved in planning the 9/11 attacks. According to Yusufzai, al-Zawahiri lived a very quiet life after becoming the leader of Al-Qaeda with little to no active involvement. Although his death could weaken Al-Qaeda, Yusufzai has warned that the next leader could be someone who could rebuild Al-Qaeda and make them a formidable force again.
Afghanistan don’t have the political power or military power to do anything to the United States. While the attack was to weaken Al-Qaeda, it might cause distrust within the Afghanistan government. Questions will be raised, and answers sought to find out how the United States gathered ground intelligence without entering the country.