There is no doubt that the US drone strike, which killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul last Sunday, led to the arrest of the Taliban leadership in an unexpected state. The attack revealed that the promises of these leaders to prevent their country from becoming a haven for terrorists again are lies. Al-Zawahiri was living in the Afghan capital, and it was reported that he was staying in the house of a senior Taliban leader. And the American writer Bobby Ghosh says in a report published by Bloomberg News Agency that the “Taliban” is still trying, three days after the killing of Al-Zawahiri, to prepare a response to what happened. Perhaps the reason for this is that the leader of the “Taliban”, Hebatullah Akhendzadeh, and his leadership team, realize that the killing of Al-Zawahiri represents both an opportunity and a challenge. As the Taliban prepares to celebrate the first anniversary of its return to power after the withdrawal of the US military last summer, even its goal of securing international recognition as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan has not been achieved. The Taliban’s pariah status makes it nearly impossible for the Taliban government to manage the country’s economy, which was supported by foreign aid until the US withdrawal last summer. The economic crisis has deepened in recent months. Afghanistan is suffering the consequences of the worst drought in two decades. A recent report by the US Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reveals that 70% of Afghan families are “unable to cover basic food costs and non-food needs.”
and perhaps harmful and beneficial; If Akhundzadeh can now restrain his fighters, as well as al-Qaeda elements in the country, from responding to al-Zawahiri’s killing with violence, this may reinforce the leadership’s declaration that it is not the old Taliban. Thus, this will make it easier for the international community to deal with Afghanistan, pave the way for much-needed humanitarian aid, and provide some support for the sluggish economy. On the other hand, Josh adds, many in the Taliban will consider the killing of al-Zawahiri a national affront, and it is likely that voices calling for revenge will rise in the coming days. Akhundzadeh will be watching in particular the position of Sirajuddin Haqqani, his most important deputy, the main Afghan sponsor of al-Qaeda and the owner of the house where al-Zawahiri was hiding.
Haqqani, who is perhaps the most anti-American among all the Taliban leaders, is classified as a terrorist by the United States; The FBI announced a $10 million reward “for information that leads directly to him” for his arrest. The announced reward for the killing of Al-Zawahiri was $25 million. His anonymous network of fighters, the most powerful group within the Taliban, owes him more loyalty than the supreme leader.
It will not be easy for Akhundzadeh to rein in the more aggressive elements of the Siraj al-Din network. Haqqani might say that al-Zawahiri was his guest, and he is obligated to avenge his death. The Taliban leadership adheres to the old tribal rules of hospitality, and for years the Taliban invoked these traditions when refusing to demand the expulsion of the former al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden. But it is possible that Akhundzadeh responds by saying that the custom obliges guests to leave before they become too burdensome for their hosts. Perhaps he can use that argument to draw the attention of other prominent Al Qaeda members who are currently enjoying his hospitality.
Akhundzadeh can count on the support of the relatively moderate Taliban faction led by Abdul Ghani Baradar, which has been fed up since being marginalized by Haqqani and his hardliners. It would be very easy for Akhundzadeh to assert that revenge for Zawahiri’s death would not be in Afghanistan’s interest. But this is based on the assumption that the leader of the “Taliban” takes care of his people over the care of his guests. Josh concluded his report that Akhendzadeh and his leadership team must realize that the eyes of the Afghans and the eyes of the world are on them.
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