Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham's Abu Abdullah al-Shami on the Death of Ayman al-Zawahiri
The United States announced the killing of al-Qa’ida’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a strike in Kabul in Afghanistan. That the United States was able to kill him is likely a reflection of a miscalculation on Zawahiri’s part that he could somehow use Taliban-controlled Kabul as a safe haven following the fall of the previous Afghan government. This miscalculation strikes me as hubris: had I been in his position, I would not have moved there. It also seems unlikely that the Taliban as an organisation somehow colluded with the United States to take him out: a collaboration between the two would have probably resulted in his arrest and handover.
Much of the subsequent analysis will focus on jihadist reactions to this news. That al-Qa’ida supporters will eulogise him is predictable and obvious. A reaction that is of more interest however is that of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s Abu Abdullah al-Shami (Abd al-Rahim Atoun), since Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham officially broke its ties with al-Qa’ida in a move that deeply angered Zawahiri. Indeed, Atoun was one of the leading voices in the dispute between the two groups as he rebutted Zawahiri’s conception that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham had violated its allegiance pledge and vehemently defended Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s actions as being in the interest of the jihad in Syria.