Despite al-Zawahiri strike, US officials are concerned about tracking terrorism threats in Afghanistan
The White House has hailed the CIA operation that killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul on Saturday as evidence that using over the horizon counterterrorism capabilities in Afghanistan has been effective.
Especially now that we’re out I’m worried about the potential loss of sources and collection over there.”“I’m worried about the possibility that we will see al Qaeda reconstitute,” he added.
Administration officials say that on the contrary, the Zawahiri strike is proof that the US is successfully monitoring and countering the threat without American boots on the ground in Afghanistan.
“Will the Taliban actually let AQ use Afghanistan?” said one source familiar with the intelligence.
Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, officials believe, is still gauging its ability to operate under Taliban rule and will likely remain focused on maintaining its safe haven rather than planning external operations – at least for now.
And according to intelligence officials, there are vanishingly few members of the original al Qaeda leadership who remain in Afghanistan, none of whom are likely to replace Zawahiri.
They argue that the far greater risk is al Qaeda affiliates in Africa and elsewhere that are only loosely connected to core leaders in Afghanistan.
There are also concerns that the remnants of al Qaeda may simply be absorbed into the Taliban.
The UN report found a “close relationship” between al Qaeda and the Taliban.
How the Taliban respondHow the Taliban responds to the death of Zawahiri remains an open question – and one that intelligence and military officials are watching closely, multiple officials said.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has no information about Ayman al-Zawahiri’s arrival and stay in Kabul,” a statement by the Taliban said.
“I think this was a symbolic strike that removed an inspirational leader,” Sanner said.