Newsweek

CIA Drone Strike Nearly Killed Head of Al-Qaeda

Pakistan is now harboring Al-Qaeda leaders Ayman al-Zawahiri and Hamza bin Laden, multiple sources say.
Osama bin Laden, left, sits with his adviser and successor Ayman al-Zawahri, on November 10, 2001. Zawahiri, an Egyptian, is now the head of Al-Qaeda.
Zawahiri Bin Laden Source: REUTERS/Hamid Mir/Editor/Ausaf Newspaper for Daily Dawn

Updated | He has been the forgotten man in the West’s desperate campaign to obliterate the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). He didn’t even merit a cameo in the celebratory coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011. For several years, he has been described as the leader of a spent force.

Yet Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s mentor and successor, remains a key player in an attack threat to America that retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, the U.S. homeland security secretary, says is "worse today than what we experienced 16 years ago on 9/11.” And if officials in the Donald Trump administration have their way, al-Zawahiri’s name will soon be as familiar to the world as bin Laden’s once was.

The White House signaled a new, tougher approach to eliminating al-Zawahiri and his militant allies in early April with the appointment of Lisa Curtis to head the South Asia desk for the National Security Council. A well-known former CIA analyst, congressional staffer and foreign policy hawk in Washington, D.C’s think-tank circuit, Curtis caused a stir in February when she co-authored a piece arguing that the U.S. “should...hold Pakistan accountable for the activities of all terrorist groups on its soil.”

Related: The Anatomy of a CIA

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