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HomeNewsDrone strike on al-Zawahiri confronts Taliban with nationalist backlash

Drone strike on al-Zawahiri confronts Taliban with nationalist backlash

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KABUL — The U.S. drone strike that killed al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri right here early Sunday morning additionally struck a humiliating blow to the Taliban regime, which had secretly hosted the getting older extremist within the coronary heart of the Afghan capital for months however didn’t hold him secure.

Simply because the Taliban was getting ready to have a good time its first 12 months in energy later this month, the assault has sparked a nationalistic backlash towards the beleaguered regime at dwelling and taunting feedback on social media calling for revenge towards the US.

“If the martyrdom of Zawahiri is confirmed, then disgrace on you that we couldn’t shield the true hero of Islam,” an Afghan named Ehsanullah tweeted in response to a press release early Tuesday by the chief Taliban spokesman that the al-Qaeda chief had been killed in a U.S. drone strike.

The Publish’s Joby Warrick explains Ayman al-Zawahiri’s position in al-Qaeda and the importance of his killing for the terrorist group and the world. (Video: Alexa Juliana Ard/The Washington Publish)

The assassination of al-Zawahiri, a hero to Islamist militant teams however a long-wanted terrorist within the West, has additionally crystallized the continued battle between average and hard-line factions throughout the Taliban regime. A number of leaders of the hard-line Haqqani community, lengthy denounced by U.S. officers for guiding high-profile terrorist assaults, maintain highly effective positions within the regime.

In a pair of tweets Tuesday night time, Anas Haqqani, an influential Taliban determine who participated within the Doha peace negotiations, mentioned, “This assault by the US is a barbaric act, and it’ll have critical implications.” The second tweet confirmed a video of U.S. forces below assault and mentioned it was “devoted to the president of the savages. I feel the US has forgotten previous experiences.”

Now, some Afghan and American analysts mentioned, the drone strike could harden Taliban attitudes and push the regime towards an open embrace of the extremist forces it pledged to surrender in its 2020 peace cope with the US.

“The Taliban are in deep political bother now, and they’re going to face stress to retaliate. The connection they’ve with al-Qaeda and different jihadi teams stays very sturdy,” mentioned Asfandyar Mir, an knowledgeable on Islamic extremism on the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. “I feel we must always brace for impression.”

Mir famous that whereas Taliban officers have been hoping to achieve worldwide recognition and entry to $7 billion in belongings that have been frozen by the Biden administration, the group’s supreme spiritual chief, Hibatullah Akhundzada, declared flatly at a nationwide conclave in Could, “We’re in a conflict of civilizations with the West.”

U.S. kills al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike in Kabul

There may be deep-seated animosity right here towards the US, which intensified after U.S. troops withdrew final 12 months and the warfare economic system collapsed, leaving hundreds of thousands of Afghans jobless. When Afghan officers belatedly confirmed {that a} U.S. drone had killed the al-Qaeda chief, after first insisting the strike was a innocent rocket assault, many Afghans have been infuriated.

“We have now so many worries already. For a complete 12 months, there have been no jobs, no enterprise, no exercise. However at the very least the preventing was over. The Taliban was in cost, and there was good safety,” mentioned a resident of the Sherpur neighborhood, the place the drone struck, who gave his identify as Hakimullah. “Now, abruptly, this assault occurs, and everyone seems to be frightened once more.”

Many Afghans appear to know little about al-Zawahiri or al-Qaeda. Partially, it is because so a lot of them have been born after the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults that U.S. officers mentioned have been masterminded by al-Zawahiri and his associates, and partly as a result of the al-Qaeda fighters who joined forces with the Taliban are Center Easterners whose presence in Afghanistan has all the time been low profile.

What Ayman al-Zawahiri’s killing means for al-Qaeda

Till now, individuals right here have been much more centered on the menace posed by a unique Sunni Muslim extremist motion, generally known as the Islamic State-Khorasan or ISIS-Okay. The group has prior to now repeatedly bombed mosques, faculties and different websites in Kabul, particularly in the course of the Shiite Muslim competition of Muharram, which started this week.

Amongst these most dismayed by the flip of occasions are Afghan civilians who’ve tried to kind working relationships with the brand new Taliban authorities, encouraging them to develop average and sensible governing insurance policies quite than focusing solely on faith.

Faiz Zaland, who teaches governance and political science at Kabul College, expressed frustration with the Taliban for failing to anticipate the dangers of bringing al-Zawahiri to the capital and concern that the U.S. assault had doomed probabilities for the average parts within the regime to compete with the laborious line spiritual figures on the prime.

“The Taliban are caught now, and it’s their very own fault,” he mentioned. “That is going to undercut the achievements of their first 12 months, and individuals who care really feel betrayed and scared.”

Correction: An earlier model of this text misstated the worth of Afghan belongings frozen by the Biden administration. The correct determine is $7 billion. The article has been up to date.

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