KABUL: The Taliban on Tuesday morning condemned as a violation of the 2020 Doha Agreement a US drone strike in a residential area of Kabul, which according to Washington had killed Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
US President Joe Biden announced on Monday evening that a “precision strike” had killed Al-Zawahiri, who the US leader said was sheltering in the center of the Afghan capital.
Biden said that he hoped Al-Zawahiri’s death would provide “a small measure of peace to the 9/11 families and everyone else who has suffered at the hands of Al-Qaeda.”
Al-Zawahiri, 71, an Egyptian-born physician, was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list with a $25 million bounty on his head. He had helped coordinate the Sept. 11 Al-Qaeda attacks on the US that killed almost 3,000 people, and took over the group when its leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in Pakistan in 2011.
Since Biden’s announcement, the FBI has updated Al-Zawahiri’s status to “deceased.”
The Taliban did not confirm if anyone was killed in the drone strike, or if Al-Zawahiri was in Kabul. Chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid only said that a preliminary investigation found that the attack in the Shirpur area of downtown Kabul was “carried out by American drones.”
The area where Al-Zawahiri’s residence is believed to have been located has been cordoned off by security forces, blocking media access to the site. The neighborhood is a diplomatic enclave home to many senior Taliban officials.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns this attack on any cause and calls it a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement,” Mujahid said in a statement.
“Such actions are a repetition of the failed experiences of the past 20 years and are against the interests of the US, Afghanistan and the region. Repeating such actions will damage the existing opportunities.”
The Doha Agreement between the Taliban and Washington led to the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces from the country before the Taliban took control of the country in August last year.
The foreign troops were stationed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion that ended the first Taliban stint in power. It came after Washington accused the group of sheltering bin Laden.
After the Kabul strike, the US also accused the Taliban of violating the Doha deal, under which the Taliban were obliged to cut ties with foreign militants, including Al-Qaeda.
“By hosting and sheltering the leader of Al-Qaeda in Kabul, the Taliban grossly violated the Doha Agreement and repeated assurances to the world that they would not allow Afghan territory to be used by terrorists to threaten the security of other countries,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The drone strike is the first known US intervention in Afghanistan since its military withdrawal, and may damage already tense relations with the ruling Taliban.
“This is a major blow to the Taliban rule after withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan and will severely impact future relations between the Taliban and the US,” Naseer Ahmad Nawidy, political sciences professor at Salam University in Kabul, told Arab News.
“The recent attack means that the US still has intelligence and even military presence in Afghanistan, and can target anyone in the country.”
Obaidullah Baheer, transitional justice lecturer at the American University in Afghanistan, said that with the Doha deal being “vaguely worded,” there was room for operations like the Kabul drone strike to take place, but that the move was still an “attack on the sovereignty of the country.”
He said: “Violation of sovereignty is condemnable and unacceptable regardless of the circumstances.”