For analysts al-Qaeda strong after al-Zawahiri, successor from Africa?

For Bertolotti of the Ispi it is “likely to expect a reaction against the USA”. Vidino sees among the possible successors the Egyptian Saif al-Adel or Abdal-Rahman al-Maghrebi, but also leaders of groups in Africa where jihad is expanding.

” Nothing changes for al-Qaeda ” with the killing of its leader, the Egyptian ideologist Ayman al-Zawahiri, ” is nothing but the death of an old charismatic leader ”. Because ” today the war on terror ends, but terror does not end ”, and on a political level ” an historical epoch is closing, an important chapter already closed with the unsuccessful withdrawal from Afghanistan ”. But on the ground ” al-Qaeda is stronger than ever ”, because it abandoned ” the idealism and the global vision of Osama Bin Laden ” has become ” a more concrete regional reality on the field thanks to Zawahiri ”. Claudio Bertolotti, an analyst at the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), is convinced of this, and with Adnkronos instead reflects on how the killing of al-Zawhiri ” changes things for Biden. There are elections in three months and the Democrats need to have a president who has achieved results. ”

On the contrary, the death of Osama Bin Laden’s successor ” will not have a direct impact on al-Qaeda’s capabilities ”. Indeed, “every time a leader of the jihadist movement is hit, the reaction is not long in coming”, as well as “a new leader who generally tries to impose himself by planning new attacks”. It is therefore “ likely to expect an al-Qaeda reaction against the United States ”, says Bertolotti, who recalls how al-Zawahiri considered “ counterproductive the global and idealist jihad wanted by Bin Laden, criticized his willingness to strike the Great Satan, the United States, everywhere, even in his home. Because every action provokes a reaction ”.

The ” revolution ” that al-Zawahiri has been carrying out since 2014 has led al-Qaeda to tie itself more and more to armed opposition groups, Bertolotti recalls, citing al-Shabab in Somalia and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa, the presence of the Network in Sub-Saharan Africa and that of the Indian continent. ” All realities that are strengthened and have their roots with local authorities ”, creating ” generations of fighters who will kick off the new al-Qaeda in a hypothetical future ”, he explains.

On who will take Zawahiri’s place at the helm of al-Qaeda, the analyst excludes that it could be the current Minister of the Interior of the Taliban government, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who housed the terrorist leader in his home in central Kabul where he was killed. ” Too smart to take al-Zawahiri’s place – Bertolotti explains – he will remain leader of the Haqqani network, an organization within the Taliban, but autonomous. He has no interest in becoming the new al-Qaeda leader. ”

Rather, al-Zawahiri’s successor may be a ” close friend of his, former Egyptian colonel Saif al-Adel ”. Or Abdal-Rahman ” al-Maghrebi, al-Qaeda’s head of media communication ” and al-Zawahiri’s son-in-law. In any case, there is talk of ” a new ideologue, someone who keeps the idealist al-Qaeda alive and who does not take care of having troops operate on the territory ”.

“The future of al-Qaeda could be in Africa”. It is there that it is strengthening and it is from there, probably, that the new leader will arrive after the killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri. Also because the network founded by Osama Bin Laden ” has lost a lot of value on the global stage ”, even if ” it has gained some with the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan ”. It is the fact that Zawahiri was killed in central Kabul in a house owned by the right arm of the interior minister of the Taliban government proves it, proves that al-Qaeda can operate freely in the country and has its own sanctuary in Afghanistan. ”. This is what Lorenzo Vidino, director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, explains to Adnkronos. ‘

‘The place where Zawahiri was killed demonstrates that there are real fears related to the fact that the Taliban government would have allowed al-Qaeda to operate freely’ ‘, says Vidino, noting’ ‘the policy implications that this entails” also for the the fact that “the Taliban want to receive funds from the international community …”.

In short, it is “deja vu, as happened eleven years ago with Bin Laden killed in a villa a few hundred meters from a Pakistani army barracks”. But it is also “overwhelming, but not shocking” proof of the protection the Taliban provide to al-Qaeda. It is a ” clear violation of the Doha agreement ” because the house where Zawahiri lived was owned by the Haqqani network ” which acts as a trait d’union between the Taliban and al-Qaeda ”. Now ” we will have to see what he will entail, even if the situation does not change. The Taliban are in charge and if you have to interact with them in the end you have to do it ”, beyond ” evidence of support for terrorism or violations of human and women’s rights ”.

On al-Qaeda’s ” full candidates for leadership ” Vidino sees ” various possibilities ” starting with ” a couple of internal candidates, number 2 Saif al Adel and number three al-Maghrebi, son-in-law of Zawahiri , both seem to be in Iran. ” But Vidino also points out that “in recent years there has been a potential growth trend of some affiliates, such as al-Shabab in Somalia, and a loss in value of global al-Qaeda.” Therefore “it could also be possible that the new leader of the group comes from affiliations”, also considering “the global jihadist repositioning on the African scenario”. The analyst explains how ” the jihadist world and al-Qaeda are gaining ground in Africa and less on classic scenarios such as the Middle East ”. In any case it is necessary “ quickly to find a successor ” to demonstrate that “ the blow inflicted is not lethal ” and “ the spin they will give is the same as the post-death Bin Laden, or that the disappearance of a leader nothing changes in the importance of the concept of Jihad, because what matters are the objectives and not the people ”.

Be that as it may, al-Qaeda loses “an important figure, leader for 11 years as well as one of the founders”. News also welcomed in Saudi Arabia, where Vidino is located. ” In the Gulf, at the government level, a lot has changed since 20 years – he explains – Almost all the countries of the Middle East and the Gulf no longer have the strong ambiguities of the past regarding jihadism. Although there are certainly pockets of sympathy ”. The exception is “Qatar, it is no coincidence that it is an intermediary with the Taliban and the agreements have been signed in Doha”. But in Saudi Arabia ” the news of Zawahiri’s death was given on the news, as news of one day and nothing sensational ”.