The death of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahair could be an important proof of concept – the U.S. can fight terrorism remotely using drones and technology rather than relying on troops on the ground, says Virginia Tech international affairs and Middle Eastern politics expert Ariel Ahram.

Ahram says this was an important part of President Trump's plan when he signed the agreement to leave Afghanistan in 2020, and it was an assumption that President Biden shared when he implemented the withdrawal in 2021.

Quoting Ahram

“Following the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, Zawahiri became the head of al-Qaeda. Under his leadership, al-Qaeda has steadily weakened over the last decade,” says Ahram. 

“Al-Qaeda has been under constant military pressure and has seen more intensive rivalries from splinter groups, like the Islamic State. Finding shelter in Taliban-rule Afghanistan might have been the last safe haven for al-Qaeda leadership.”

“Still, the fact that Zawahiri was able to move into Kabul under the nose of the Taliban at all is troubling. It suggests that the Taliban cannot -- or will not -- abide by their pledge to the U.S. to keep their country free of al-Qaeda,” says Ahram. “This raises important questions about whether the U.S. policies to pressure the Taliban have really worked.”   

About Ahram

Ariel I. Ahram is professor and chair of the government and international affairs program at the Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs located in the Washington, D.C., metro area.  He is the author of War and Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (Polity, 2020) that explores the causes and consequences of wars and conflicts in this troubled region, including in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Israel/Palestine, and Lebanon. More on his background here.

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