The White House revealed on Tuesday morning that it does not have DNA proof that Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike in Kabul on Sunday.
Instead, spokesman John Kirby said officials used multiple sources and pieces of evidence to establish that Osama Bin Laden’s successor was dead.
It comes as officials are under pressure to release more details about the strike, including where the U.S. drones flew from and any foreign assistance they had in taking out one of the world’s most wanted men.
Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, declined to discuss whether the C.I.A. carried out the strike or whether Hellfire R9X missiles, fitted with blades, were used.
And although he said the strike sent a message that Al Qaeda leaders would never be safe anywhere, he admitted that it would not be possible to get genetic proof of al-Zawahiri’s death.
‘We do not have DNA confirmation. We’re not going to get that confirmation,’ he told CNN.
‘Quite frankly, based on multiple sources and methods that we’ve gathered information from, we don’t need it.’
Announcing the strike a day earlier, President Joe Biden said he hoped that al-Zawahiri’s death would bring ‘one more measure of closure’ to families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, which he helped coordinate.
Kirby, who made the rounds of morning TV shows, said the strike showed that the U.S. had established an ability to kill terrorists in Afghanistan
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said officials did not have DNA confirmation of the death of Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri
A day earlier, President Joe Biden announced that al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday. He led Al Qaeda since the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011
Officials said al-Zawahiri was killed as he stood on the balcony of this house in the well-to-do neighborhood of Sherpur in the Afghan capital Kabul
‘One, it tells you that we can do exactly what we said we were going to do a year ago: Over-the-horizon counterterrorism capability is possible,’ he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
‘In fact, it can be very effective and we’ve seen that just over the course of this weekend.
‘And if I’m an Al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan right now I’m thinking that it’s not quite the safe haven I once thought it was.’
The strike is believed to be the first since U.S. forces left Afghanistan last year. Since then officials have promised an ‘over-the-horizon counterterrorism’ strategy but have struggled to find countries in the region prepared to work with Washington in hosting covert U.S. missions or airbases.
Analysts suggested that Pakistan may have allowed the U.S. drone to use its airspace en route to the target – under an old deal agreed near the start of the Afghan conflict.
‘The drone definitely entered Pakistani airspace over Balochistan and entered Afghanistan,’ Abdul Basit, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told the South China Morning Post.
However, Pakistani officials denied that they allowed their airspace to be used and also said they had not provided evidence about the Al Qaeda leader’s location.
Republicans in Washington were quick to blame Biden’s chaotic exit from Afghanistan last year for the reemergence of Al Qaeda in the country.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy demanded that the administration briefed Congress on the terrorist’s group’s presence in Afghanistan.
GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene echoed McCarthy’s sentiment saying that even Americans will be glad al-Zawahiri is dead, ‘Joe’s victory lap is ridiculous.’
She made the statement after she attended the Saudi-backed LIV tournament at Donald Trump’s Bedminster golf course on Sunday.
Meanwhile, 9/11 groups and families of victims are celebrating al-Zawahiri’s slaying, but argue there needs to be more accountability of those who plotted the attacks.
Republicans are slamming President Joe Biden’s ‘ridiculous victory lap’ after the killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri is pictured with Osama bin Laden in 2001
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (left) blamed Joe Biden’s (right) ‘disastrous withdrawal’ from Afghanistan for paving the way for the group’s resurgence
McCarthy demanded Biden’s administration meet to discuss the ‘steps we must take to keep our country safe and prevent terrorists from entering the United States’
Biden confirmed during a Monday evening address from the White House that al-Zawahiri was killed in a US drone strike in Kabul on Sunday, an operation he hailed as delivering ‘justice.’
US intelligence officials tracked al-Zawahiri to a home in downtown Kabul – owned by a top aide to senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani – where he was hiding out with his family.
‘He will never again, never again, allow Afghanistan to become a terrorist safe haven because he is gone and we’re going to make sure that nothing else happen,’ Biden declared. ‘This terrorist leader is no more.’
However, Biden’s critics allege the drone strike demonstrates the president’s failure to combat terrorism and his blatant lies to the American people, citing previous statements he made claiming Al Qaeda was not present in Afghanistan.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (pictured July 23) mocked the president for his ‘ridiculous victory lap,’ his ’embarrassing’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and overall poor performance as commander-in-chief
‘Today is further proof that our United States Military and Intelligence Community personnel will not stop pursuing those who threaten the United States of America and our interests,’ McCarthy said in a statement to DailyMail.com.
‘This news also sheds light on the possible re-emergence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan following President Biden’s disastrous withdrawal a year ago,’ he continued.
‘The Biden administration must provide Congress with a classified briefing as soon as possible to discuss the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the region over the past year, the current foreign terrorist threat to America, and the steps we must take to keep our country safe and prevent terrorists from entering the United States.’
Rep. Mike Turner, the lead Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, argued the drone strike put an end to al-Zawahiri’s ‘reign of terror’ but also revealed Biden’s failure to address ‘rising threats’ in Afghanistan.
‘When US troops withdrew from Afghanistan last year, President Biden claimed Al Qaeda was gone from Afghanistan,’ Turner penned. ‘This strikes tells us otherwise.’
‘The United States has brought justice to al-Zawahiri and the world is safer for it. The President must now turn his attention to the rising threats in Afghanistan.’
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene mocked the president for his ‘ridiculous victory lap,’ his ’embarrassing’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and overall poor performance as commander-in-chief.
She accused Biden of using al-Zawahiri’s death to distract the American people from the ongoing issues directly impacting their families, such as the rising inflation rate.
The strike was carried out early Sunday at an Afghanistan safe house the elderly terrorist had be holed up in, at 6:18 am local time and 9:48 pm Saturday in the US.
Rep. Mike Turner, the lead Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, argued the drone strike put an end to al-Zawahiri’s ‘reign of terror’ but also revealed Biden’s failure to address ‘rising threats’ in Afghanistan
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene accused Biden of using al-Zawahiri’s death to distract the American people from the ongoing issues directly impacting their families, such as the rising inflation rate
Sen. Ted Cruz hailed al-Zawahiri’s death as an ‘important accomplishment’ that should serve as a warning to all terrorist groups
Sen. Lindsey Graham, citing his own prior statements, argued that when Biden withdrew US troops from Afghanistan it was ‘only a matter of time before the country became a safe haven for terrorism once again’
‘After embarrassing America with the failed military pull out of Afghanistan, spending nearly $60 billion in a proxy war with Russia that’s just killing more people, and Pelosi on the verge of causing China to invade Taiwan, it’s absurd Joe is going to try to act tough on TV,’ Greene tweeted Monday night.
‘Of course we want all terrorists that attack America dead, but no one in America has been sweating an attack from Al Qaeda lately or even heard a thing about them, but Americans are extremely stressed about affording groceries, gas, & the Democrats big tax hike coming soon.’
Greene then slammed ‘pathetic Democrat policies’ that she claims have led to ‘out of control inflation, an out of control border invasion and out of control crime sprees across America.’
‘But they have to roll Joe out on TV tonight while he’s Covid positive again so he can talk big without blinking,’ she added. ‘Joe’s victory lap is ridiculous.’
Some Republicans, including Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, applauded Biden’s win, but also used al-Zawahiri’s death as an opportunity to criticize the president’s leadership.
‘To the Biden Administration: congratulations on this operation, but your overall strategy of abandoning Afghanistan is going to come back to haunt America because Afghanistan is again going to be a safe haven for radical Islam,’ Graham wrote.
Some Republicans, including Senators Ted Cruz (left) and Lindsey Graham (right), applauded Biden’s win, but also used al-Zawahiri’s death as an opportunity to criticize the president’s leadership
A Taliban fighter stands guard during Friday prayers in the Abdul Rahman Mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 29, 2022
‘If you think this drone strike has stopped the threat to our homeland coming from Afghanistan, you have missed a lot of history.’
Graham, citing his own prior statements, argued that when Biden withdrew US troops from Afghanistan it was ‘only a matter of time before the country became a safe haven for terrorism once again.’
‘I did not believe in my wildest dreams that Al-Zawahiri would go to Kabul to live with family members as President Biden suggested. What a brazen show of an alliance between al-Qaeda and the Taliban,’ he stated. ‘Al-Zawahiri may be dead in Afghanistan, but al-Qaeda is not gone.’
Graham warned that contrary to Biden’s remarks, the US military’s ability to combat growing terrorist threats in Afghanistan are ‘on the margins.’
‘There are al-Qaeda training camps emerging in Afghanistan like before 9/11.’
Sen. Cruz said Americans should ‘breathe easier today knowing Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda, has been eliminated.’
He said hailed al-Zawahiri’s death as an ‘important accomplishment’ that should serve as a warning to all terrorist groups.
‘This strike should be a message to terrorists near and far: if you conspire to kill Americans, we will find and kill you,’ Cruz said.
Those who lost loved ones in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks say that while al-Zawahiri’s death is a ‘significant step forward,’ officials need to take further action against Al Qaeda members
Osama bin Laden is pictured in Afghanistan in 1997
Meanwhile, those who lost loved ones in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks say that while al-Zawahiri’s death is a ‘significant step forward,’ officials need to take further action against Al Qaeda members.
‘We urge President Biden to continue to stand with the 9/11 community and all those who seek justice by holding Saudi Arabia accountable for the 9/11 attacks,’ the group 9/11 Justice said in a statement to Fox News.
‘This is a significant step forward and is particularly meaningful to the 9/11 community as we continue our years-long battle for justice and accountability.’
The group praised Biden for declassifying documents about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the attacks, but claim he must further hold the nation responsible for the ‘murder of thousands.’
‘The financiers are not being targeted by drones, they are being met with fist pumps and hosted at golf clubs,’ Terry Strada, national chair of 9/11 Families United, said of the Saudi investors who funded the attacks.
‘If we’re going to be serious about accountability, we must hold everyone accountable.’
President and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Alice Greenwald argued al-Zawahiri’s death ‘demonstrates how the 9/11 story continues to evolve, even 21 years later, and reinforces the need for us to keep educating younger generations about the continued impact of 9/11 on the world we live in today.’
Al-Qaeda is enjoying a ‘safe haven’ in Afghanistan under the Taliban, a UN report has warned. Pictured: A Taliban special forces soldier stands guard in Kabul in April
Taliban officials are seen as spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid holds a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 7, 2021
Planning for the operation to kill al-Zawahiri began six months ago, but intensified in the last two months, US officials revealed.
Intelligence officials had tracked Zawahri to a home in downtown Kabul where he was allegedly hiding out with his family.
Biden approved the operation last week and it was carried out on Sunday. A CIA ground team and aerial reconnaissance conducted after the drone strike confirmed the terrorist’s death.
Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
His whereabouts – variously rumored to be in Pakistan’s tribal area or inside Afghanistan – had been unknown until the air strike.
The leader’s death marks the biggest blow to the militant group since bin Laden was killed by US special forces in 2011.
Ayman al-Zawahiri (left) and Osama Bin Laden the leader (right) are pictured together after a press conference on May 26, 1998
US intelligence officials tracked Zawahri to a home in downtown Kabul where he was hiding out with his family. The house was owned by a top aide to senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani (pictured speaking during a police cadet graduation ceremony in March 2022)
His killing comes after the United Nations reported in June that Afghanistan has been serving as a safe haven for Al Qaeda under the Taliban and that an undisclosed number of the group’s members were living in Kabul’s former diplomatic quarter.
Communications from al-Zawahiri also showed he believed ‘he may be able to lead more effectively than was possible before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.’
Experts earned in the intelligence report to the UN Security Council that the country could become a base for terrorist attacks, The Guardian reported.
However, they added neither IS nor Al Qaeda ‘is believed to be capable of mounting international attacks before 2023 at the earliest, regardless of their intent or of whether the Taliban acts to restrain them.’
Nonetheless, it said the presence of IS, Al Qaeda, and ‘many other terrorist groups and fighters on Afghan soil’ is raising concerns in neighboring countries and the wider international community.
The experts said in the report to the U.N. Security Council that the country could become a base for international terrorist attacks once again (Taliban patrol in Kabul)
However, they added neither IS nor al-Qaeda ‘is believed to be capable of mounting international attacks before 2023 at the earliest, regardless of their intent or of whether the Taliban acts to restrain them’
There are also concerns about the Taliban’s inability to keep its promise not to allow terrorist groups to operate in Afghanistan.
The panel said the Haqqani Network, a militant Islamist group with close ties to the Taliban, moved quickly after their takeover to gain control of key portfolios and ministries including interior, intelligence, passports and migration.
It now ‘largely controls security in Afghanistan, including the security of the capital, Kabul,’ the report stated.
‘The Haqqani Network is still regarded as having the closest links to al-Qaeda,’ and the relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaeda also remains close.
The experts pointed to the reported presence of Al Qaeda’s ‘core leadership’ in eastern Afghanistan, including al-Zawahiri.
Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people
With other senior Al Qaeda members, al-Zawahiri is believed to have plotted the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole naval vessel in Yemen which killed 17 US sailors and injured more than 30 others, the Rewards for Justice website said.
He was indicted in the US for his role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and wounded more than 5,000 others.
Both bin laden and al-Zawahiri eluded capture when US-led forces toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Biden’s decision to kill al-Zawahiri is sure to be compared to the cautious stance he initially took in meetings that led to then-President Barack Obama’s order for the Pakistan raid that killed bin Laden in 2011.
Biden, who was then vice president, has acknowledged that he advised Obama to take more time. But he also told him to ‘follow your instincts’ and ultimately supported his decision to go ahead.
Obama, in his memoirs, wrote that Biden was concerned about ‘the enormous consequences of failure’ and counseled the president to ‘defer any decision until the intelligence community was more certain that bin Laden was in the compound.’