U.S. Drone Strike Kills al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri

A U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul over the weekend.


A U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul over the weekend, President Joe Biden announced Monday.

  • U.S. intelligence built a model safe house, constructed “a pattern of life” for their target, and took out Zawahiri while he was sitting on his home’s balcony.
  • Zawahiri was likely killed with an R9X modified Hellfire missile – nicknamed the “flying Ginsu” – that uses six blades to kill its target instead of an explosion to minimize civilian casualties.
  • President Biden said, “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.”
  • The CIA drone strike on Zawahiri is the first known demonstration of the “over-the-horizon” anti-terrorism strategy outlined by President Biden amid last year’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the Taliban for “grossly” violating the Doha Agreement by sheltering Zawahiri in Kabul.
  • Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s longtime deputy, took over al-Qaeda after Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in May 2011.
  • The 71-year-old Zawahiri had a $25 million bounty on his head and hid for years in the Afghan mountains before spending his final months in a posh Kabul neighborhood.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The New York Times noted that while al-Qaeda has now lost eight of its top leaders in the past few years, the organization now “has more total fighters than it did on September 11, 2001.”
  • The Washington Post covered how the CIA tracked down Zawahiri and took advantage of his love for his balcony to take out the terrorist leader.
  • CNN assessed Zawahiri’s possible successors. One possible successor, Said a-Adel, is one of the last members of al-Qaeda’s “founding generation” and lives in Iran. Other contenders could emerge from al-Qaeda’s African affiliates.



  • While the strike on Zawahiri was successful, the Wall Street Journal wrote the strike “leaves unanswered the question of whether Washington can remotely thwart plots in Afghanistan before they become a threat.”
  • National Review hailed the killing, writing Zawahiri “deserves to rot” and praised the president, military, and intelligence services for taking out one of the chief orchestrators of the 9/11 attacks.
  • FOX News interviewed 9/11 families for their reactions to Zawahiri’s death. Brad Blakeman, whose first responder nephew was killed on 9/11, said, “It was a long day in coming. It should have been done a long time ago if we had had the opportunity.”

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© Dominic Moore, 2022