Al-Zawahiri’s assassination and its implications for Afghanistan and region
With the assassination of al-Zawahiri, the U.S intended to declare another form of its presence in Afghanistan and the region. This show, was coincided exactly with the anniversary of merica's withdrawal from Afghanistan. This means that the geopolitical situation of Afghanistan in the drone age, has still maintained its importance. It is likely for the countries of the region, to be encouraged to the strategy of providing more regional security. In the meantime, Pakistan will re-emerge as a new actor. Historical evidence shows that whenever America has been involved in tough competition with a rival country in this region, Pakistan has opened its air and land borders to America and received exorbitant transit fees.
By: AbdulRahim Kamel
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Al-Qaeda leader, was assassinated by an American drone in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. His residence in the diplomatic area of Kabul, strengthened this suspicion that the Taliban hosting the Al-Qaeda leader. The U.S president announced al-Zawahiri’s killing as a great achievement, but unlike the American media, al-Zawahiri's death was not widely reflected in other international and regional media. Even though al-Zawahiri did not have Bin Laden’s charisma in the leadership of al-Qaeda, he was able to maintain the area of presence and operation of al-Qaeda all through Africa to Asia. Al-Zawahiri's presence in Kabul, the apital of Afghanistan, is indicative of Al-Qaeda's new activity in Afghanistan and the region.
istorical experience indicates that by killing the leader of an ideological group, all of its components cannot be disabled. Ideological groups’ moves are based on their beliefs, and sometimes the death of the leader, strengthens their desire to fight and revenge, more than before. For this reason, the U.S government issued a security warning for all its citizens outside the United States after al-Zawahiri’s assassination. The main question this article arises, is what the repercussions of the Al-Qaeda leader’s assassination will be in Afghanistan and the region.
1- The consequence of al-Zawahiri’s assassination for Afghanistan’s security situation
The fact is that, no definitive evidence on how al-Zawahiri’s assassination took place has been provided so far from any side. It is not exactly clear yet for analysts that which countries or which groups from inside Afghanistan have cooperated in al-Zawahiri’s assassination. The cooperation or non-cooperation of the Taliban with the United States regarding the assassination of al-Zawahiri, as well as the role of Pakistan, each has its own impact on the security situation of Afghanistan in the future. In this regard, there are two possibilities:
A: The possibility of Taliban cooperating with the U.S again
After the assassination of al-Zawahiri, Zalmay Khalilzad acknowledged in general that some Taliban officials were probably aware of the assassination plan. Under any circumstances or any reasons, if the Taliban or a part of this group has cooperated with the US in the assassination of Al-Qaeda’s leader, it would have a very negative impact on the security situation in Afghanistan. Now, in general, al-Qaeda forces may have doubted their trust in the Taliban group. They might think that, Pakistan and the United States would not have been able to identify Aymen al-Zawahiri’s hideout through drones, without the cooperation and exchange of information about his residence in Kabul. If the cooperation of the Taliban or some Taliban groups in the assassination of al-Zawahiri is revealed in the following months, the security situation in Afghanistan will deteriorate. In that case, in addition to two fronts of Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) and the resistance forces, the Taliban security forces will also encounter the Al-Qaeda front. Since al- Qaeda may use terrorist attacks, just like the ISKP does, then many innocent people will be victimized in Afghanistan.
Since there is a long-standing animosity between Islamic State and al-Qaeda, it seems unlikely that al-Qaeda forces join Islamic State en masse. Islamic State was a parallel power that practically marginalized Al-Qaeda during these years. There is also a serious probability that the new leader of al-Qaeda introduce a new commander, to create a new spirit for the supporters of this group in different regions, including Afghanistan.
B: The possibility of Taliban cooperating with Al-Qaeda again
In this case, the hypothesis and the news of Al-Zawahiri's pledge of allegiance to the Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada on this year, will turn to be real and it will be revealed that the Al-Qaeda leader was really a guest to the Taliban government in Kabul, and that he was jointly identified by the intelligence
services of Pakistan and the United States.
In this hypothesis, the Taliban government will also pay a lot. Although the Taliban government completely denied any information about Al-Zawahiri's presence in Kabul, Al-Zawahiri's assassination in Kabul meant the presence of the highest level of Al-Qaeda's leadership in Afghanistan, and the international recognition of the Taliban faced a serious obstacle. In case of the secret alliance of Taliban and Al-Qaeda and its revelation, US drone attacks on Afghanistan will increase. In such a situation, the Pakistan government will be very willing to cooperate closely with the United States in its future scenarios in Afghanistan and the region. In that case, the Pakistan government will take on the role of providing support and supplies to the armed opponents of the
In general, by assassinating al-Zawahiri in the neighborhood of Arg (the presidential palace of Afghanistan in Kabul), the U.S showed to the Taliban leaders especially the Haqqani network, that in the absence of strategic cooperation between the Taliban and the United States, the U.S might enter the process of assassinating those who are on the terrorist list of the American government.
2- The consequence of al-Zawahiri's assassination for transnational groups in Afghanistan
The evidence shows that there are many jihadist groups in Afghanistan, and during the Taliban rule in the 1990s, these groups considered Afghanistan to be Darul Mujahideen (home of fighters). According to reports, jihadist groups such as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP(, Ansarullah of Tajikistan, the so-called Tajik Taliban group, the jihadist groups of Uzbekistan, The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the ISKP (Islamic State of Khorasan Province), and the al-Qaeda are present in some areas of Afghanistan.
Experience has shown that the US government has been somehow connected with jihadist groups, especially in the Middle East. The activity and presence of the U.S in Afghanistan for 20 years under the name of combating terrorism, and finally the irresponsible withdrawal of America from Afghanistan, not also provided the ground for the presence of many jihadi groups in Afghanistan but also questioned the commitment of America in the fight against terrorism regionally and globally.
It seems as if the U.S is still trying to use the presence of transnational jihadist groups in the geography of Afghanistan, for the benefit of its own strategy in the region. Whenever any of these groups refuses to cooperate strategically with the U.S interests in the region for any reason, then the U.S puts the leaders of these groups on terror list and blacklist, and acts against them. From another point of view, the US drone attack on the leader of Al-Qaeda in Kabul, may be a warning to other leaders of regional jihadist groups in Afghanistan. Sometimes, some incidents have different dimensions and many scenarios can be involved in them. It is exactly because of the complexity of America's security games in the region that some sources consider the killing of the Al-Qaeda leader, as an opportunity made by America, for the ISKP to be strengthened in Afghanistan.
3- The consequence of al-Zawahiri's assassination for the region
It is most likely that the American government intended to declare and display another form of American presence in Afghanistan and the region, by assassinating al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan. This show was timed in a way to coincide exactly with the anniversary of America's withdrawal from Afghanistan. This means that the
geopolitical situation of Afghanistan in the age of the drone world, has still maintained its importance.
In this case, the countries in the region will find a serious need for a regional security strategy and will be more encouraged for that. Meantime, Pakistan is likely to emerge again as a new player. Historical evidence shows that every time America has been involved in tough competition with a rival power in this region, Pakistan has opened its air and land borders to America and received exorbitant transit fees.
The assassination of al-Zawahiri by the U.S in Afghanistan, might have different repercussions which will be shown at different levels. But most of its consequences will be formed in Afghanistan and its negative consequences will be imposed on the people of Afghanistan.
The U.S announced another kind of presence in Afghanistan and the region through al-Zawahiri’s assassination, which could have long-term consequences in Afghanistan and the region.