Al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri killed in Afghanistan

Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of the terrorist organisation al-Qaeda, was killed in a drone strike orchestrated by the US military on the weekend. He was struck down as he was standing on the balcony of a compound in the Afghan capital Kabul, according to the US government. Al-Zawahiri was the successor of Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. The operation and its consequences are the subject of heated debate in the media.

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Politiken (DK) /

A hotbed for terrorists

After this operation the US should ask itself how the terrorist leader was able to live so freely in the centre of the Afghan capital, Politiken writes:

“As wonderful as it is for Biden and his team to have taken out al-Zawahiri, it's just as disturbing to know that the world's most wanted terrorist was living in downtown Kabul. Clearly, under the Taliban, Afghanistan is turning into the terrorist hotbed that many feared it would become after the US's chaotic withdrawal last year. How many terrorists are now hiding in the Taliban-controlled state?”

The Conversation (FR) /

The IS could ermerge stronger

Other Islamist organisations could benefit from the weakening of al-Qaeda, US terror researchers Haroro Ingram, Andrew Mines and Daniel Milton warn in The Conversation France:

“The elimination of al-Zawahiri doesn't tell us whether the US's post-withdrawal strategy can rein in other jihadist groups in the region, such as the Islamic State in Khorasan, which staunchly opposes the Taliban and its expansion in Afghanistan. ... Many jihadists may consider the Islamic State in Khorasan the best choice if they see the Taliban as too weak to protect the main leaders of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and as incapable of ruling Afghanistan without US help.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

US voters don't care about foreign affairs

The praise Biden is receiving for al-Zawahiri's elimination may be nothing more than a brief reprieve, NRC Handelsblad suspects:

“Whether Biden can win many voters at all with foreign policy decisions is an open question. As long as petrol prices remain high, American voters won't care much what military manoeuvres China carries out in the South China Sea. What is liberating for Biden, however, is that the polarisation of US politics is less constrictive when it comes foreign affairs. ... The reactions to the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri this weekend demonstrate this. Republican politicians are patting President Biden on the back for his decision. But in an election year you don't get any gifts from your political rivals.”

France Inter (FR) /

An enormous loss for the terrorist organisation

Al Qaeda has been further weakened, France Inter believes:

“From an operational point of view, the organisation that planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks is objectively merely a shadow of its former self. The hunt carried out by the Western secret and military services - as well as others - has proved efficient in the long term. ... So the death of the head of the organisation comes as a fearsome blow for al Qaeda: al-Zawahiri was its highest ranking, most senior leader. His death means the loss of an essential element for a terrorist organisation based on ideology and religion: the prestige and legitimacy of a particularly influential jihadi intellectual.”

Iltalehti (FI) /

His successor could be far more dangerous

Killing al-Zawahiri could turn out to be a big mistake in the long run, Iltalehti fears:

“The charismatic bin Laden and the bloodthirsty al-Baqhdadi and al-Sarqawi were excellent at convincing potential young jihadists to join their organisations. Al-Zawahiri lacked this skill. Under his leadership al-Qaeda achieved nothing truly significant. ... Al-Zawahiri could now be replaced by someone far more charismatic and dangerous, someone who sees another 9/11-style attack as essential to al-Qaeda's resurgence and who is backed by sponsors angered by al-Zawahiri's assassination as well as by young Islamist extremists. Such a leader would pose a greater threat to the US.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Berlin needs to take action

The taz adopts a firm stance on the issue:

“This was a state-commissioned murder. This statement is neither unusual nor absurd. It corresponds to the prevailing doctrine of European international law, which clearly defines the fight against terror as a task for the police as part of its mandate to stop crime, not as a permitted form of state warfare. ... Now the federal government must not simply sit back and do nothing. ... Because many US drone attacks use facilities at the US airbase in Ramstein as a relay station for drone operations. ... For a long time now the peace movement has been calling for Germany to ban the US from using the air base, at least for illegal drone attacks.”

Interia (PL) /

Far removed from the spirit of the Nuremberg Trials

Interia voices its disappointment with the US:

“Nowadays, killing even the worst villains is considered a clear deviation from the standards on which the Americans pride themselves. One can't avoid the impression that this contrast reflects a certain impotence on the part of the leading politicians, the secret services and the judiciary. ... In any case, today's US seems far removed from the spirit that prevailed during the Nuremberg Trials and the moral standards they set, and which at least to some extent are supposed to be a hallmark of the West.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

The West was wrong about the Taliban

This incident has brought a sad truth to light, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Under the Taliban, global terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and IS are once again gaining strength in Afghanistan. ... The hasty withdrawal of American and other Western troops from Afghanistan and the resulting takeover of power by the Taliban a year ago have had a devastating impact on the country in every respect. The Islamists have created a new regime of terror and are trampling on the rights of women, religious minorities and dissidents. ... People were naïve enough to assume that Afghanistan would stabilise under an authoritarian Taliban regime. ... Formal recognition of the regime in Kabul is certainly an even more distant prospect now.”