3 things the strike on al-Zawahiri tell us about the U.S. counterterrorism strategy

3 things the strike on al-Zawahiri tell us about the U.S. counterterrorism strategy

Published August 2, 2022
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Osama bin Laden (left) sits with his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for an interview that was published in November 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. The U.S. says it killed al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Kabul on Sunday. Visual News/Getty Images hide caption

Osama bin Laden (left) sits with his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for an interview that was published in November 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. The U.S. says it killed al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Kabul on Sunday.

First, the target was al-Qaida’s top leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a man the U.S. had pursued for more than two decades. The strike showed the U.S. could still track hard-to-find extremist leaders even if it takes a long time to find them.

Second, this was the first high-profile U.S. attack in Afghanistan since U.S. troops withdrew in August of last year. Such strikes are far less frequent than during the height of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they remain part of the arsenal.