The Taliban on Aug. 4 said it wasn’t aware Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri was in Kabul days after the Biden administration confirmed it killed him in the Afghan capital.
A chief spokesman for the Taliban said the group ordered its “investigative and intelligence agencies to conduct serious and comprehensive investigations on various aspects of the mentioned event.”
“There is no threat to any country, including America, from the soil of Afghanistan, the Islamic Emirate wants to implement the Doha pact and the violation of the pact must end,” the Taliban claimed. “The fact that America invaded our territory and violated all international principles, we strongly condemn the action once again. If such action is repeated, the responsibility of any consequences will be on the United States of America.”
The comment was the first time the Taliban spoke about the July 31 CIA drone strike that killed Zawahri, the former top deputy to Osama Bin Laden, on the balcony of a safe house that officials claimed was linked to a Taliban leader. In 2020, the Taliban’s leaders promised in an agreement in Doha, Qatar, that the group wouldn’t harbor Al-Qaeda members or terrorist groups who seek to attack the United States.
But U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the Taliban had “grossly violated” the 2020 agreement by allegedly hosting and sheltering Zawahri in Kabul.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CBS News that the administration is speaking with the Taliban about the incident.
“We do believe that senior members of the Haqqani network, which is associated with the Taliban, knew that Zawahiri was in Kabul,” Sullivan said. “There may have been other members who didn’t. And we are communicating directly with the Taliban about their obligations not to allow Al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as a base for plotting.”
Other Details Revealed
Authorities in Pakistan, which shares a lengthy border with Afghanistan, said on Aug. 4 that its airspace wasn’t used for the drone strike that killed Zawahri. Top U.S. officials haven’t commented on where the drone, which fired Hellfire missiles, had originated.
“There is no evidence of this action having been undertaken using Pakistan’s airspace,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Asim Iftikhar told news outlets.
While Biden and other administrations have hailed the killing of Zawahri as a positive development, some analysts say it’s a worrying sign that Al-Qaeda or other Islamic terrorist groups have returned to Afghanistan. The United States initially launched its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan to dismantle Al-Qaeda for its alleged role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
“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 analyst at the Long War Journal, wrote on Twitter on Aug. 1.
“Zawahiri could not operate in Afghanistan—particularly in Kabul—without the consent of the Taliban. He wasn’t in the remote mountains of Kunar, Nuristan, or Nangarhar, or distant provinces of Ghazni, Helmand, or Kandahar,” Roggio wrote. “He was in the Taliban’s capital.”
As for Al-Qaeda, the group hasn’t named a successor to Zawahri, who was a top target of the U.S. government over the past decade after Bin Laden’s death in 2011.