More On: Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al-Zawahiri was killed in the home of a Taliban lackey, who was once given a platform by the New York Times
On Tuesday, the White House released a picture of President Joe Biden meeting with his national security team on July 1. At the meeting, they talked about the plan to kill al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
In the picture, Biden is talking to CIA Director William Burns, who is sitting to the president's right and wearing a face mask. The meeting took place in the White House's Situation Room.
During the briefing, Biden asked his team questions about the planned operation and looked at a model of the safe house where al-Zawahiri was hiding in Kabul.
The White House tweeted the picture with the caption, "On July 1, President Biden meets with his national security team to talk about the counterterrorism operation to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri." At this meeting, the President was told about the planned operation and shown a model of Al-safe Zawahiri's house.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Christine Abizaid, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer, and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain were all at the meeting with Burns.
A senior administration official said that during the meeting President Biden 'asked detailed questions about what we knew and how we knew it.'
'He was particularly focused on ensuring that every step had been taken to ensure the operation would minimize' the risk to civilian casualties, the official noted.
'And he wanted to understand the basis upon which we had confidence in our assessments,' the official said.
He also asked his team to think about how Mark Randall Frerichs, an American who went missing in Afghanistan in 2020, might be affected.
Throughout the month, there would be more meetings, and on July 25, Biden gave the go-ahead for the operation.
It happened on July 30.
At 6:18 a.m. on Sunday, as the sun was still coming up over Kabul, the Afghan capital, an American MQ-9 Reaper drone flying at a height of up to 50,000 feet fired two R9X "Ninja" Hellfire missiles at a house in Sherpur, a wealthy neighborhood in the city.
Ayman al-Zawahiri was Osama bin Laden's former right-hand man. Since bin Laden's death 11 years ago, al-Zawahiri has been in charge of the terrorist group Al Qaeda. He had just finished his second prayer of the day and was watching the sunrise from his rooftop balcony, as he always did.
Moments later, the 71-year-old was no more - pulverised into oblivion by the R9X's 100lbs reinforced-metal warhead and six katana-like blades that would have silently popped out of the fuselage moments before impact.
It was the end of at least 21 years of searching by US intelligence and the military. They were looking for justice for the nearly 3,000 people who died in the 9/11 terror attack that Zawahiri planned, as well as for the hundreds of people who died in bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the USS Cole years earlier.
With Zawahiri's death, all of the people who planned 9/11 have either been caught or killed.
President Biden said yesterday, "No matter how long it takes or where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and kill you."
The strike was the result of six months of hard work by the CIA to gather information. They had followed Zawahiri to his safe house, learned about his daily routine, and chosen the best time to hit him.
US officials say the operation started in April, when they got information that Zawahiri's wife, their daughter, and her children had moved into a safe house in Kabul. The house was in the old diplomatic quarter, which used to be home to Western officials and embassies.
The family was being kept safe by the Haqqani network, which is a well-known terrorist group run by two brothers and their uncle who are close to both Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The Taliban took back control of Afghanistan in August after the US pulled out in a sloppy way.
Sirajuddin Haqqani is the leader of the network and the Interior Minister for the Taliban government. He is the son of the group's founder, Jalaluddin, and is also the head of the network. The house where Zawahiri's family moved is thought to be owned by one of his helpers.
Over the course of three months, the US worked hard to prove that Zawahiri was also living there. The proof came when he was seen on the balcony for "sustained periods" of time.
Spies made a scale model of the house and used "multiple intelligence sources" to get a clear picture of Zawahiri's daily schedule so they could figure out the best time to attack him.
In May and June, as more information came in, President Biden was kept up to date.
He carefully looked over the plans, which called for a precise attack on the balcony, and he wanted to make sure that everything possible was done to make sure that no one else would die.