Many mini Qaedas: Zawahiri’s elimination is good news. But terrorism has morphed since Osama-Ayman days – Times of India

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Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s assassination in a US drone strike in Afghanistan demonstrates that the American war on terror endures. Zawahiri had moved to Kabul after the Taliban takeover last year. He was finally targeted by an American drone on the balcony of a building in the Afghan capital. He was closely involved with the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks, as well as other terror strikes on American targets around the world such as the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. His elimination is good news.
That said, al-Qaida has become a shell of its former self since Zawahiri took over the outfit following Osama bin Laden’s assassination in 2011. Multiple factors are behind this. The global Islamist terrorist movement has splintered with al-Qaida branches across the world practically operating independently. In fact, the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida morphed into the Islamic State terror group that went on to claim leadership of the Islamist movement. Similarly, al-Qaida branches in Syria, north Africa and even in the Indian subcontinent have gone on to achieve operational independence.
The most significant aspect of Zawahiri’s death is that he was eliminated in Afghanistan – this raises serious questions about Taliban’s ability to honour the 2020 Doha Agreement. The latter had paved the way for US withdrawal from Afghanistan on the condition that Taliban guarantee Afghan soil will never be used to harbour al-Qaida and other terror groups. Zawahiri’s residence was in the heart of Kabul and it shows Taliban is either unwilling or unable to drop its dangerous friends. While the US got distracted with the war in Ukraine, Taliban’s hardcore Kandhari faction along with the Pakistan-backed Haqqanis used the opportunity to sideline the moderate Doha faction and re-imposed an ultra-conservative agenda for Afghanistan.
This means that India must remain on alert as Pakistan, with its influence over sections of Taliban, could reactivate Afghanistan as an anti-India terror base. Therefore, India must coordinate closely with the US and other countries that share its concerns to counter the terror threat coming from Afghanistan, and carefully assess Taliban even while establishing ties with it.
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This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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