US eliminates Zawahiri in drone strike: Did Pakistan sell him out for IMF bailout?

WASHINGTON: The United States on Sunday eliminated al-Qaeda fugitive and Osama bin Laden’s successor Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Kabul, the first since its withdrawal from the region, sparking accusations and infighting between the Taliban and his patron Pakistan over who sold him out.
US officials said Zawahiri was hit by two Hellfire missiles when he stepped onto the balcony of a Taliban-controlled hiding place in Kabul, where he lived with members of his family after moving there from Pakistan earlier this year.
In a televised address, US President Joe Biden said “justice has been delivered”, while repeating the American mantra “that no matter how long it takes, wherever you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you outside.”
American eyes in the sky and spies on the ground reportedly followed Zawahiri for weeks to establish his routine and ensure no other family members were killed in the drone strike that had been planned for weeks.
Reports of positive identification and confirmation that it was Zawahiri who was eliminated fueled speculation about continued US assets in the region, in Kabul, and Pakistan’s role in the operation.
Some analysts suggested Zawahiri was “sacrificed” by Pakistan to get back on the US good books and secure financial aid, including an IMF bailout, pointing to army chief Bajwa’s recent appeal to Washington for financial aid.
Afghan resistance leader Amrulla Saleh was among those to point out that “for much of its history” Business suit has managed to mitigate its financial crisis by monetizing the threat of Afg and banking on security interests of the West.”
“When the US took out Bin Laden, relations with Pakistan plunged to new lows. Now that the US has eliminated Zawahiri and possibly with Pakistani aid, relations with Pakistan could receive one of their biggest boosts in years,” tweeted Michael Kugelman, a South Asian scholar at the Wilson Center.
But other analysts warned that it was also possible that Zawahiri’s coordinates had been sold out by sections of the Taliban opposed to Pakistan and its proxies in Kabul, who did not want Al Qaeda to return to Afghanistan.
The fugitive Al Qaeda leader was reportedly taken to a hiding place in Kabul by leaders of the Haqqani network, considered a virtual arm of the ISI and now part of the primitive ruling clique in Afghanistan.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the network’s founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is the current interior minister of the Taliban government, known to be torn between factions.
In a statement, the Taliban government condemned the drone attack “in the strongest possible terms and considers it a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement.” But the US Ministry of Foreign Affairs fired back, saying it was the Taliban who had violated their promise in the Doha Agreement not to allow terrorist groups to operate on their territory and to sever all relations with those groups.
It will take time for the smoke to clear and the mirrors to straighten, but for now it is certain that Washington has eliminated one of the last al-Qaeda terrorists, but not the miasma of mistrust in the region.

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