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Zawahiri assassination bolsters Biden on anniversary of Afghanistan’s exit

#Zawahiri #assassination #bolsters #Biden #anniversary #Afghanistans #exit

Weeks before the first anniversary of a withdrawal from Afghanistan that critics said exposed President Joe Biden’s weakness, he shrugged off both Covid and critics to announce the assassination of the al Qaeda leader in Kabul – an operation as the Democrat says, shows the US remains as strong as ever.

“When I finished our military mission in Afghanistan nearly a year ago, I made the decision that after 20 years of war, the United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan,” Biden told the nation late Monday when he announced the Death of Ayman al-Zawahiri.

“I made a promise to the American people that we will continue to conduct effective counter-terrorism operations… We have done exactly that.”

Announcements of the deaths of jihadist leaders have been the shortest since the September 11 attacks.

Barack Obama’s revelation in 2011 about the daring operation to kill Osama bin Laden at his home in Pakistan electrified the nation. Hearing Obama, a veteran speaker, people poured into the streets shouting “USA!”

Donald Trump took a different approach in 2019, using gory language to break news of a raid to kill Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in Syria — and to bolster his own image as a strongman .

“He died like a dog,” Trump said.

For Biden, the attitude was unfavorable. The Democrat is isolated from a case of Covid-19, battered in the polls and facing the anniversary of the traumatic withdrawal of US troops from Kabul in August 2021 this month, the Democrat is in a vulnerable position.

In a nod to Covid ventilation measures, his speech was delivered from the noisy Blue Room balcony. Washington’s police sirens blared in the background as he touted American resilience.

Yet the timing of the speech could not have been better for a president trying to change the narrative.

While staying away from triumphalism, Biden noted that Zawahiri had been wanted “for years under Presidents (George W.) Bush, Obama and Trump.”

The implication – that the country is safe in Biden’s hands – was clear.

“No matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you pose a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out,” Biden said.

– Afghan Strategy Debate –

Critics from left and right see last year’s US withdrawal from Kabul as a sign of incompetence that will make Afghanistan not just a humiliating spectacle but a 9/11-like hotbed of anti-American Islamic groups.

Biden argues he had the guts to pull the plug on a failed war waged by three previous presidents and that there simply would never be an orderly end to the debacle.

He dismissed skeptics and also vowed that America’s “over the horizon” capabilities meant there was no longer a need to risk US lives on the ground.

Now, with Zawahiri’s murder, Biden has a golden opportunity to say he was right.

Afghanistan “cannot be a launch pad against the United States,” Biden said in his speech. “This operation is clear proof that we will always deliver on the solemn promise we can and will.”

– Disadvantages –

There was immediate praise from even unlikely quarters, with the host on Fox News’ often hostile evening show calling it “President Biden’s bin Laden moment” and “a huge, huge win for the US.”

However, some experts warn of the White House spin.

James Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Iraq and now chair of the Wilson Center’s Middle East program of think tanks, hailed the display of “superb intelligence, commitment and determination.”

That expertise, however, does not offset the “chaos” of last year’s Afghan disengagement, which Jeffrey attributed to poor coordination and Biden’s “handicapping” of staff by his refusal to accept that there might be downsides to a disengagement — or to plan for them.

Nathan Sales, another former diplomat working at the Atlantic Council, said Zawahiri’s mere presence in Kabul was a failure for the United States, implying that “as feared, the Taliban are once again providing a safe haven for al-Qaeda leaders.” grant”.

And it’s too early to tell if a spectacular drone strike “can be repeated against other terrorist targets,” he said.

“Until we know more, we should resist the urge to use the strike as justification for going ‘over the horizon’ on terrorism.”

So far, Biden has received good grades overall. Among the cheerers on Tuesday was Bill McRaven, then the US special operations commander who oversaw the bin Laden raid.

“What the US has shown is that we can actually target certain high-value individuals over the horizon,” he told CNN.

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