Pakistan played ‘absolutely no role’ in al Qaeda chief Zawahiri’s killing

Pakistan played ‘absolutely no role’ in al Qaeda chief Zawahiri’s killing

ISLAMABAD:
The United States killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a CIA drone strike in Kabul on Sunday. The drone strike indicates that the United States is capable of eliminating high-value targets and, importantly, does not have any American footprint on the ground in Afghanistan.

 

The killing of the al-Qaeda leader, who was offered a $25 million reward, raises questions about how the CIA carried out the operation. The CIA, after the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces, has no bases in Afghanistan or Pakistan, where the US operated after the 9/11 attacks.

There is speculation that Pakistan may have played a role in removing the al-Qaeda leader. Speculation was sparked by a telephone conversation between Army Chief of Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the head of US Centcom 48 hours before the CIA attack in the Afghan capital.

“The murder of [Ayman al-Zawhariri] is an internal matter in Afghanistan. Pakistan has no role of any kind,” said a government source familiar with the development.

The source strongly refuted some rumors that the drones may have flown from Pakistan and that the US was using the country’s airspace.

“They [US] have a lot of options in the area. However, it [the drone] did not fly from Pakistan or through its airspace,” the source told The Express Tribune.

US use of Pakistani land and Pakistani airspace has been a contentious issue since foreign forces left Afghanistan last August.

Prior to the US withdrawal, it was reported that the Biden administration wanted to reach an agreement with Pakistan on the establishment of an air base for future counterterrorism operations in the region.

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an interview with American media, asserted that he would never allow the United States to operate on Pakistani soil. When asked if Pakistan would consider the US request for the base, he replied: “absolutely not”.

But US officials insist that they have never asked Pakistan to provide a base for future operations. However, it is believed that the United States wants to work closely with its security agencies to combat terrorism.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has yet to respond to the killing of the al-Qaeda leader, although many other countries, including Saudi Arabia, have issued official statements about the development.

Islamabad’s cautious approach is tied to the sensitivity surrounding the issue. Pakistani authorities were certainly relieved to find Ayman-al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials say the presence of the al-Qaeda leader in Kabul will also jeopardize the recognition of the Afghan Taliban in the future.

The United States has stated that Zawahiri’s presence in Afghanistan violates the Doha agreement signed by the Afghan Taliban.

In this Doha deal, the Afghan Taliban agreed to cut ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

But a recent UN Security Council monitoring report shows that al-Qaeda is gaining strength under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The report also states that the al-Qaeda leader not only lives in Afghanistan, but that many of the group’s leaders are consulting in the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

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