CEP Analysis: What Comes After Zawahiri’s Death

(New York, N.Y.) — Following the Biden Administration’s announcement Monday of a successful drone strike killing al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Senior Director and former Coordinator of the United Nations Security Council’s ISIL (Da’esh), al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Team Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler outlined his view on the future of al-Qaeda and the hospitable environment the Taliban have arranged for terrorist groups and leaders in Afghanistan. 

On the future of al-Qaeda:

“Zawahiri’s death is a significant counter-terrorism success, but it should not be cause for anyone to let their guard down. He is most likely to be succeeded by Saif al-Adel, a revered figure within the terrorist organization, and potentially a bolder operative than Zawahiri. Currently, al-Adel is being harbored by Iran, and he can easily move to Afghanistan if necessary.”

On the Taliban and al-Qaeda:

“Zawahiri was killed in Kabul, which is fully under the control of the Taliban, in a house owned by the Acting Minister of Interior. This demonstrates how close the relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda has remained despite Taliban assurances to the contrary. The next al-Qaeda leader is therefore in a good position to organize a base of operations there. It is not at all unlikely that we will see terrorists training in Afghanistan and working toward large scale ‘spectacular’ terrorist attacks.

“Further, it is important to recognize that the U.S. strike was in a major urban area. Western visibility is likely to be much more lacking in more remote parts of the country. This, combined with the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as the continuing existence of several al-Qaeda affiliates in Afghanistan and the growing power of al-Qaeda affiliates—particularly in Africa—presents a very worrying situation in the long run.”

To read CEP’s Ayman al-Zawahiri resource, please click here.

To read CEP’s Saif al-Adel resource, please click here.

To read CEP’s Sirajuddin Haqqani resource, please click here.

To read CEP’s Al-Qaeda resource, please click here.

To read CEP’s Haqqani Network resource, please click here.

To read CEP’s Taliban resource, please click here.

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On March 30, 2020, an al-Shabaab suicide bomber mounted the vehicle of Abdisalan Hasan Hersi, a governor in Somalia’s Puntland, as he parked his car near a police station. The jihadist detonated his explosive device, killing Hersi and seriously wounding a former police commander and a civilian.  

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