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US Killing of Zawahiri: Another Sign that Afghanistan Remains a Terrorist Haven?

Kabul, a year after the shameful retreat of the Americans, resembles in a sinister way the Kabul of the early 2000s.

Published
Opinion
4 min read
US Killing of Zawahiri: Another Sign that Afghanistan Remains a Terrorist Haven?
i

The killing of al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri will be sold as a counterterrorism success. But that narrative masks the undeniable truth that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is a safe haven for al-Qaeda.”

Bill Roggio, a terrorism expert and editor of the Long War Journal, has always had few doubts, and he was right. Kabul, a year after the shameful and hasty retreat of the Americans, resembles in an increasingly sinister way the Kabul of the early 2000s: a Kabul over which the only possible peace is of the ‘pax Talibana’, which looks so much like the peace of cemeteries. It’s a Kabul in which the West entered with a controversial decision to fight terrorism and which, 20 years later, it abandoned, shaking hands with the same terrorists it had fought. The US also signed shameful peace agreements that basically envisaged a single condition for the Taliban: that they terminate relations with al-Qaeda and, therefore, that Afghanistan does not once again become the privileged base for international terrorism.

Snapshot
  • A year after the shameful and hasty retreat of the Americans, resembles in an increasingly sinister way the Kabul of the early 2000s.

  • The Kabul house in which Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed was, in fact, owned by Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s Interior Minister.

  • Why and when were Zawahiri and his family, who were said to be in Pakistan until not so long ago, moved to Kabul?

  • The world always had evidence that not only al-Qaeda but other jihadi groups, too, in the geopolitical area were alive and well and happier than ever in Afghanistan, that paradise for terrorists, led once again by terrorists. But nobody really cared.

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The Same Story Again

There was enough evidence that not only al-Qaeda but other jihadi groups, too, in the geopolitical area were alive and well and happier than ever in that paradise for terrorists, led once again by terrorists. But nobody really cared. An artfully managed press campaign had made the so-called ‘Taliban 2.0’ the protégés of the entire international press. The sad figures who sit in the Afghan government had been invited with all honours, and in private jets, by various Western governments, whose representatives said they were ‘proud’ to sit at the negotiating table with a group of hired cutthroats to discuss ‘human rights’.

Then, because the capture of international terrorists can not be denied to any American president, the surprise came: an R9X missile hit and literally sliced Ayman al-Zawahiri, the man who, along with Osama bin Laden, had planned the attack on the Twin Towers. Zawahiri was killed not in a shelter in the mountains but while he was enjoying the cool of the morning sitting on the balcony of a pretty pale pink villa, 16 rooms ‘only’, in the centre of Kabul – in the Sherpur neighbourhood, one of the most exclusive residential area of the city.

And the house – surprise again – was, in fact, owned by Sirajuddin Haqqani. Yes, the same Sirajuddin who is the Taliban’s Interior Minister, their vice-premier, the one who is still on the United Nation's list of international terrorists and also a columnist for the very democratic New York Times.

After his death, the second part of a farce that began with the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, started, with the same actors, the same script-writers and with more or less the same plot.

Connecting the Dots

First of all: how did the drone reach Kabul? The answer is not blowing in the wind, but it lies in the flight routes. In whatever way you see it, the US must have been using Pakistan’s airspace if not a Pakistani airbase. Another question: who did the preliminary job on the ground? The logistics and planning of the operation that led to Zawahiri’s death must have taken months and, certainly, men on the ground. Why and when were Zawahiri and his family, who were said to be in Pakistan until not so long ago, moved to Kabul?

Now, let’s try to do a children’s exercise and connect the not-so-scattered dots. Zawahiri was in Pakistan and was moved to Kabul in the care of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ISI man. Recently, General Bajwa, the head of the Pakistani army, had called Wendy Sherman, one of the US Undersecretaries of State. The phone call, according to a Nikkei Asia scoop, was about a loan of $1.2 billion that Pakistan must absolutely obtain from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if it does not want to find itself bankrupt like Sri Lanka.

What comes to the fore is the theory doing the rounds at the moment in and outside Pakistan: an old, very ill and almost useless terrorist has been given in exchange for a free chit at the next IMF session.

He was not killed in Pakistan like his boss bin Laden, and everybody got a win-win deal. Uncle Joe gets his 15 minutes of glory as Commander-in-Chief, Rawalpindi comes clean, and Islamabad gets its money. The Taliban are angry – or pretend to be so – and issue a hilarious statement accusing the US of violating the Doha Agreement.

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Everyone Gets a Win

Washington accuses the Taliban of the same violations: everybody knows the Doha Agreement is not worth the paper it’s written on, but that's it.

And Pakistan, to save cabbages and goats, issues the most intriguing masterpiece, ever. It says, “Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Pakistan’s role and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism are well-known. Pakistan stands by countering terrorism in accordance with international law.” Not once does it mention the word ‘Zawahiri’ for fear of internal retribution.

The show has opened again and, of course, must go on.

(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book is Balochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied. She tweets @francescam63. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for his reported views.)

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Topics:  Pakistan   Afghanistan   Taliban 

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