Al Qaeda 'chief' Ayman al-Zawahiri is being sheltered by Pakistan's Intelligence Agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), possibly in Karachi, and his "desperate last wish" is a last, big, blowout attack on the US "before folding his eyes", according to revelations by sources to Newsweek.
According to authoritative sources, who told Newsweek, al-Zawahiri has been under the protection of ISI since the launch of the war on terror in post-9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The credibility of these revelations is found in history. Pakistan was found sheltering the former leader and founder of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, in the tribal belt of the country, who was later killed by the US forces in Operation Geronimo in 2011. Osama was responsible for carrying out the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in the United States.
Why hasn't the US been able to eliminate Zawahiri? Let us take a look at al Qaeda and its leader, both current and former, and their involvement in terrorist attacks throughout the world.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took the command of al Qaeda after Osama, was a doctor by profession in Cairo city of Egypt decades ago. After leaving his practice, he travelled to Afghanistan to join the Islamist terrorist network, al Qaeda. Since then, Al-Zawahiri has been involved in subversive activities. It is believed that Zawahiri was the "operational brain" behind the devastating September 11, 2001, terror attacks on the US.
Known as Osama bin Laden's "right-hand man", Zawahiri came to Afghanistan to join the global jihad. As part of the global jihad, Zawahiri has, in a recent audio recording that was posted online on April 23, 2017, called on Syrian jihadists to wage guerrilla war against enemies, ranging from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian-backed allies to Western powers. He is heard saying, "Our people in Sham (Syria) prepare yourselves for a long battle with the Crusaders and their allies the Shi'ites and Alawites."
US is believed to be aware of Zawahiri's whereabouts. Bruce Riedel, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst, while speaking to Newsweek, pointed out a failed plot by Al-Qaeda in 2014.
According to the plot, the terrorists had to place sympathizers on a Pakistani frigate, hijack it and use it to "attack American naval ships in the Indian Ocean, or maybe Indian ships, or maybe both." If a Pakistani frigate packed with explosives or a nuclear device "sank an American aircraft carrier," "That would change world history," said Ridel, who has several books on the issue to his credit.
America has waged a war against al Qaeda, starting from Afghanistan to wherever it exists. However, despite knowing the whereabouts and the threat that Zawahiri poses, why hasn't the American intelligence community acted against him? Or has American missed its target? Let's take a look.
Al-Zawahiri has survived "several" drone attacks since 2001. A "senior" Afghan militant said, "The drone hit next to the room where Dr. Zawahiri was staying," adding, "The shared wall collapsed, and debris from the explosion showered on him and broke his glasses, but luckily he was safe."
Zawahiri's al Qaeda shares a good operational relationship with the Afghan Taliban. Though both terrorist groups are different to each other, yet they share a similar ideology and operational tactics. Afghan Defense Minister Masoom Stanikzai on April 13, 2016, said, "[Al Qaeda] They are really very active. They are working in quiet and reorganizing themselves and preparing themselves for bigger attacks". He further added, "They are working behind other networks, giving them support and the experience they had in different places. And double their resources and recruitment and other things. That is how - they are not talking too much." "The big cover is the Taliban," Stanikzai said.
But lately, since the Taliban are engaging in negotiations with the Government, Zawahiri has been asked by the Taliban leadership to stay away from Afghanistan. A Taliban militant while talking to Newsweek, said that al-Qaeda leader was "no longer welcome" in areas controlled by his group because it's engaged in peace negotiations with the Afghan government and doesn't want to be seen as "a threat to world peace."
That's why the ISI - which the Afghan Taliban refers to as "the black leg" - moved al-Zawahiri to Karachi, the biggest city in terms of population and the commercial capital of Pakistan. Several experts have warned that till today, al-Qaeda remains a potent force with the ability to attack the US again, which could be a replay of the 9/11 style terrorists attacks.
The Donald Trump administration needs to recognize this emerging threat from a terrorist outfit that has been lying low in the times of ISIS instigated jihad. In the current times of ISIS jihad, old threats cannot be forgotten. As Zawahiri continues to live in Pakistan, the threat from al Qaeda remains, not only to the US but to the world at large.