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Details surrounding the United State’s killing of of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri raises new questions, Rep. Mike Waltz, a former Special Forces officer who served in Afghanistan, told Fox News.
The U.S. killed al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, President Biden announced Monday night. al-Zawahiri took control over al Qaeda after Usama bin Laden was killed.
“Number one, what was the leader of al-Qaeda doing in Kabul?” Waltz asked. “And from what I’m hearing from a number of folks, both in Afghanistan and in the intelligence community, he’s been there for some time. So, what did the Taliban promise him?”
“Why did he feel so comfortable to really be out in the open?” the Florida Republican continued, noting that al-Zawahiri had been in hiding for years.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri speaks on the 11th Anniversary of Usama bin Laden’s death. (AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan, File)
Biden, while defending his decision to withdrawal U.S. troops from Afghanistan, said al Qaeda was no longer in Afghanistan.
“We went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as well as — as well as getting Osama bin Laden,” Biden said in August 2021. “And we did.”
Biden said in a White House address Monday evening: “The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. You know, we make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.”
Waltz also praised the strike.
“This is just a great day for peace and for freedom and for stability around the world,” he told Fox News.
But Waltz, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also questioned whether the Taliban was warned of the strike.
Rep. Mike Waltz speaks on Fox News. (Fox News)
“Did we notify them with the threat of it leaking and him escaping?” Waltz asked. “On the other hand, not notifying the Taliban would threaten this fragile relationship the Biden administration has crafted.”
The Taliban condemned the attack in a tweet, noting that the strike hit a residential house.
al-Zawahiri served as bin Laden’s deputy during the 9/11 attacks and is considered a key plotter.
“al-Zawahiri continued to pose an active threat to U.S. persons, interests and national security,” a senior administration official said Monday.
Usama bin Laden and al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri sitting side by side. (Hamid Mir/Editor/Ausaf Newspaper for Daily Dawn/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo)
Waltz told Fox News it’s unclear how al-Zawahiri’s death will affect al Qaeda’s operation.
“There are a lot of people that really didn’t think [al-Zawahiri] had very much of an operational role,” Waltz said. “What I do think we need to be aware of is that terrorism is absolutely still a threat.”
“We have to keep our foot on the necks of these terrorist organizations,” he continued. “While this strike was successful, and I certainly applaud it, that means we still have to stay vigilant, and we can’t start letting down our guard just because these two have been taken out.”
Matt Leach is a Fox Digital Originals reporter based in Tampa, FL.