Al-Zawahiri, background on the raid that killed the leader al-Qaeda

Biden informed since April, a week ago the ok to eliminate al-Zawahiri, betrayed by his habit of being on the balcony

The fate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda since the death of its founder Osama bin Laden, was decided a week ago. It is July 25, the day when American President Joe Biden, in solitary confinement after being infected by Covid-19, gave the green light to the precision raidto be carried out with a drone, to eliminate the Egyptian doctor who was the mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the Twin Towers in New York, according to the reconstruction of the American media.

But Biden had known al-Zawahiri’s hideout since Aprilif you can call it that, in the residential area of ​​Kabul from which he had never left after his arrival. What betrayed him was his habit of spending hours on the balcony of his house, where Sunday morning Kabul time was hit by a drone which, the Americans assure, caused no civilian casualties. To avoid this, ensuring maximum accuracy in the raid, Washington intelligence built a model of the house where al-Zawahiri had moved a few months ago, after the withdrawal of the Americans a year ago and the rise to power of the Taliban.

After being briefed for the first time in April about the al-Qaeda leader’s whereabouts, Biden received intelligence updates in May and June. There was also a briefing in the Situation Room on 1 July with key national security officials.

CIA Director Bill Burns, National Intelligence Director Avril Haines, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his deputy Jon Finer and Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood Randall sat around a table with Biden. Because only ” a small and very select group ” in key agencies was aware of the plans. A senior US official described a Biden as “very attentive” to detail at the July meeting, “particularly focused on ensuring that every step was taken to ensure the operation minimized the risk” of civilian casualties. That same afternoon the American president flew to Camp David, while in the Situation Room at the White House they continued to work on the details of the raid according to Biden’s instructions. In parallel, a team of lawyers analyzed the legal basis of the operation.

The green light for “ a bespoke precision airstrike ” was given by Biden on July 25, while he was in solitary confinement at his residence after testing positive for the coronavirus. Here he assembled his team for a final briefing, examined the plan in detail, and asked for additional reassurance to avoid civilian casualties, analyzing which rooms were behind each of the house’s windows. He asked every officer’s opinion and eventually gave him his authorization. Five days later two Hellfire missiles hit the balcony on which al-Zawahiri was standing at 9:48 PM Washington time, while his family members who were in other areas of the house were unharmed.. Biden, still in solitary confinement, was briefed on the operation from start to finish.

It had been months since US officials had located the terrorist leader’s support network in the Afghan capital and had identified al-Zawahiri’s wife and children. The alternative routes they used to avoid being discovered, to avoid being followed to the hiding place, are not served. As the months went by, American intelligence officials were able to identify the ‘patterns’ used by the terrorist leader’s family and see how he loved spending a lot of his time on the balcony.

The study that American intelligence carried out on the model of the house where al-Zawihiri lived was aimed at preventing the entire building from collapsing in the raid. Because, as CNN writes, it was very important for Biden to avoid the deaths of civilians in the attack, including family members of the most wanted terrorist in the world and those who lived with him. Making this objective even more difficult was the location of the building, in an exclusive residential area in the Shirpur district of central Kabul with the risk of other homes being hit.