Al-Zawahiri introduced modern strategy to the Al-Qaeda, while Bin Laden used to offer charm and wealth. Yet, al-Zawahiri leadership was the onset of Al-Qaeda’s debilitation during the 2010s and its crouch to the sidelines.
The group’s haven was destroyed after a US assault against Afghanistan early in 21st century. The members were largely dispersed, murdered, and arrested. Al-Zawahiri was tasked with ensuring the group’s preservation despite their dire situation. He replaced important lieutenants with supporters and reformed the organization’s structure in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He also front-represented the cause. While bin Laden primarily remained out of sight, al-Zawahiri continuously sent video communications.
He was infamously irritable and dogmatic, with a bushy beard, thick-rimmed spectacles, and a noticeable scar on his forehead. He used to fight ideological battles with opponents inside the group.
Even senior members of al-Qaeda’s were turned off by him, describing him as unduly intrusive, secretive, and polarizing. This was in stark contrast to bin Laden, who was praised as gentle demeanor by many warriors in words that bordered on the mystical.
Nevertheless, he transformed the organization from a centralized attack organizer into the leader of a franchise network. In the area, he oversaw the establishment of a collection of separate affiliates, including those in Saudi Arabia, North Africa, Yemen, and Somalia.
Al-Qaeda was directly involved in all of those acts in the ten years following 9/11, in addition to strikes in Europe, Pakistan, and Turkey. The group’s involvement in the Madrid train bombing in 2004 and the London transport attacks in 2005 was also confirmed.
Later, the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda demonstrated its capacity to plan strikes on American soil. In 2009, it plotted to strike a US passenger plane, and in 2010, it tried package threats against multiple targets.
Al-Zawahiri; Post bin Laden Era
It was not over two months after bin Laden’s death in an American assault on his base that al-Qaeda named al-Zawahiri as its supreme leader. Al-Zawahiri promised to keep up his assaults on the West in his tribute to the predecessor.
Yet, he raised hands in apprehension as the Arab uprisings of 2010s essentially rendered al-Qaeda irrelevant. Campaigns against decades of dictatorship were mostly started by academics and activists from the middle-brew people. Al-Qaeda was further undermined by the rise of the ISIS organization in the following years.
al-Zawahiri’s grip on the group proved frustrating as it was more and more clear that al-Qaeda was fragmenting. While he did take on the role of leader, Osama bin Laden’s status as a leader of the mujahedeen was not something he received. For the various mujahedeen factions, al-Zawahiri lacked charm, authority, and confidence.
An American drone attack finally killed the Egyptian ophthalmologist at a shelter in Kabul. US president Joe Biden boasted to the relatives of the September 11 victims that “justice had been delivered”. This was in part to wipe off the disastrous record in withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan last year.
Al-Zawahiri family members relocated to the Afghan capital earlier in 2022, according to US sources, and the al-Qaeda commander later followed. He stayed within the structure and was frequently spotted on the balcony, where he was finally slain.
The organisation would suffer a major hit following al-Zawahiri’s death. Questions were raised about his ties with the Taliban given his stay in Afghanistan. It seems that Taliban’s commitment to avoid extremism and providing the ground for terrorism has ended due to potential security interests.
As the product of long years of extremism, Al-Zawahiri was a genius in black garments.