“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain

The Brookings Institute declared Ayman al-Zawahri dead in November of 2020. So did the US Sun. They reported he died of asthma. Small Wars Journal had him killed off in 2021. Each of these three reports had one thing in common (besides claiming the death of Zawahiri) they all had naysayers, people who did not believe the headlines. People who thought he was still alive. And they were right.

A man points to the Kabul home where al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was supposedly killed. It is less than 1000 feet away from the UK embassy. Image Credit: cnn.com via Twitter

A long time ago, I learned not to believe everything you read. Many years later, in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I learned not to believe everything you hear from the press.  Let’s just say that the reality of what was happening on the ground and what was being reported home were not always the same. Best to leave it at that.

So, I’m skeptical. Call me nuts, but I like to see proof.

I’m not 100% buying what he’s selling here. In a follow-up statement, Kirby said we have “no DNA confirmation of the death.” Video courtesy of YouTube and Sky News.

Ayman al-Zawahiri was supposedly the acting leader of al-Qaeda, and US intelligence sources said he was living in Kabul, Afghanistan, fewer than 1000 feet away from the UK embassy. According to Reuters, Zawahiri arrived at his Kabul safe house on July 31st and proceeded to an upstairs balcony where he was “struck” on multiple occasions at 0618 local time (0138 Zulu). So what was he struck with? A big stick? A ball bat? No, it was supposedly a variant of an AGM 114 Hellfire missile, the R9X. MQ-9 Reaper drones can deploy these from up to seven miles away.

The R9X variant weighs over 100 pounds and carries an inert warhead, which means no high explosives. These things are also known as “flying ginsus” (remember those late-night commercials?) or “ninja bombs” because they deploy half a dozen razor-sharp knives immediately before impact. A Special Operations Command spokesman was asked directly if the R9X was utilized in the mission to kill Zawahiri. Still, he declined to comment, stating instead that they were part of the inventory available to SOCOM.

US officials reported that he was standing alone on his balcony when two hellfires were fired from a distant drone. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that Zawahiri was impacted by flying, rotating ninja blades traveling at or near the speed of sound. There would be nothing but DNA left. Sorry for the visual, but it would be like dropping a frog in a blender. Having spent months, millions of dollars, and hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands) of man hours hunting him down, we would definitely want a confirmed kill. There would be a means in place to collect some of the red goo that was the former al-Qaeda strongman. After 20 years of war, we got really good at finding exactly who the red goo came from.

An MQ-9 Reaper drone armed with multiple AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. Photo was taken September 2020. Image Credit: Senior Airman Heley Stevens/US Air Force

For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that Zawahiri is dead. The world is a better place without him. If that is the case, what was he doing living in downtown Kabul, a city of almost four and a half million people? He supposedly came out on the balcony (where he was killed) every morning as a matter of routine. It’s not exactly like he was hiding like his old boss, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban knew he was there. How can I be so sure of that, because Sky News reported that an unnamed US official confirmed to them that he was living in a home owned by senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.

And where did that drone come from? An MQ-9 is 36 feet long and weighs almost 5,000 pounds. It’s not one of those little suckers you pull out of a backpack. Let’s see; they have a range of 1,150 miles. The border with Pakistan is only a hair under 288 miles as the drone flies. Did it come from there? Perhaps. Was it launched from a ship in the Gulf of Oman? At a little under a thousand miles, that’s pushing it, but still possible.

And what about the Doha agreement? You know, the one where the Taliban promised that after we left, Afghanistan would not be used by terrorist groups, like al-Qaeda, to conduct attacks that would threaten the security of the United States. I don’t know about you, but I don’t put a lot of faith in agreements made with terrorists. It’s like making a pact with a rattlesnake not to bite you.

The Taliban has the audacity of getting pissed at us for killing the terrorist they were hiding in their country. You can’t make this stuff up. Still, they have not offered up proof that we indeed killed Zawahiri. Maybe we should ask them for the physical evidence of death that we can’t seem to obtain ourselves.

And while I’m thinking of it, why were we counting on the Doha agreement to protect us anyway? Oh, because the US pulled up stakes and abandoned Afghanistan almost overnight. We all know how well that went. Thirteen American service members were killed after we had to go back and finish the job. Talk about bad decisions.

Speaking of the troop withdrawal and the ongoing existence of al-Qaeda, President Biden defended his actions by saying,

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“Look, let’s put this thing in perspective. What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point, with al Qaeda gone? We went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al Qaeda in Afghanistan as well as – as well as – getting Osama bin Laden. And we did.”

Seriously, the Taliban had the al-Qaeda leader living practically on Embassy Row in Kabul. Now, al-Qaeda is pissed off that the Taliban didn’t protect their top guy well enough to keep him from getting schwacked on his own balcony. It should be interesting to see what, if any, repercussions come from that.

And one more thing, remember when our former President had Iranian General Soliemani killed in a drone strike near Baghdad airport back in January 2020? Some members of the mainstream media got extremely bent out of shape. There were calls for Trump’s head on a spike. With this latest killing, nary a peep.

All of the goo has been hosed down now, and we’ll probably never know for sure if Ayman al-Zawahiri is really dead or not. So keep your eyes open, like a cat; this guy might have five more lives left.