Image Source: NY Times
President Joe Biden directed the assassination of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the world’s most wanted terrorist. Zawahiri was the leader of al Qaeda and one of the masterminds behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The plan was not easy, US authorities revealed. The operation dragged on for months after Zawahiri was finally killed by a drone attack while on his balcony in Kabul. Biden admitted the operation was top secret, and only a few of his senior advisers were versed in the plan.
Authorities said that models of Zawahiri’s safe house had to be made by those engaged in the plan. These models heavily influenced Biden’s final decision to launch the drone assault.
According to Biden, he was concerned that the planned drone strike would target other civilians in the area. However, the president stated that he did not want the operation to be similar to the previous drone strike, which killed other civilians 11 months prior.
Throughout the course of the plot, Biden repeatedly instructed his deputies to make sure that no other civilians, including Zawahiri’s family, perished. The mission reportedly only succeeded in eliminating Zawahiri.
Biden claims success
On Monday, Biden made the announcement from the White House balcony, where he is quarantined after testing positive for Covid-19. That is also where the president remained during the deliberation and authorization of the drone strike.
This is a major achievement for the Biden administration in light of his administration’s low public approval ratings.
“People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer. The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm,” said Biden in a public address while he was in the White House’s Blue Room Balcony.
The long process
According to intelligence assessments, Zawahiri was observed visiting his safe home in Kabul frequently in April. Biden received a briefing from his officers while Zawahiri’s activities were being carefully observed. Information was gathered that took into account the terrorist leader’s support networks as well as his wife and kids’ recurring visitations.
Officials then mapped out patterns of behavior and activities happening within the area over a long time, as well as created the layout of the building where Zawahiri was staying.
Biden and his officials prioritized the security of people during the drone strike; therefore, other occupants were also identified.
The other challenge was where the shelter was located: it was surrounded by residential houses. All factors had to be considered before strike options were sent to the president, agents working on the plans said. Further, authorities only chose a “very small and select group” who were made aware of the plans.
The planned attack also considered Mark Frerich’s situation, who had been kept hostage inside the Afghan border for over two years.
Biden said, “Going forward with the Taliban, we will continue to hold them accountable for their actions. And we have made clear to them in the intervening days that we also expect them to take no action that would harm Mark Frerichs, as we were involved in the effort to secure his release after his long detention and captivity.”
Plans were getting close to completion as the months passed. After that, top-level officials gathered for a secret meeting. Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor, and Jon Finer, Sullivan’s deputy, Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence, and Bill Burns, Director of the CIA, were seated beside Biden, as well as Liz Sherwood Randall, Director of Homeland Security.
Biden was placed in isolation on July 25 due to Covid-19, but the plan continued, and the authorization was then put up.
Five days later, two Hellfire missiles were cleared to strike the area, and officials confirmed that Zawahiri was blown up in the strike without any collateral damage.