Published On: Wed, Sep 15th, 2021

Bin Laden’s Former Right-Hand Man Has Resurfaced. Does It Matter?

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News Analysis A recently released video suggests that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri may still be alive. Some national security experts have downplayed that development due to Zawahiri’s apparent lack of charisma and leadership abilities; others have pointed out that al-Qaeda has flourished—even garnering U.S. support in some conflicts—over the past decade under Osama bin Laden’s former chief lieutenant. Following bin Laden’s death in 2011, many celebrated the occasion as a win on two fronts: Not only did the United States bring bin Laden to justice, it also delivered al-Qaeda to the seemingly less effective Zawahiri. A Rand Corporation analysis from Sept. 11, 2001, explains that line of thinking, positing that U.S. officials have made Zawahiri a low priority due to his ineptitude. “The U.S. government has been relatively blasé about al-Qaeda since Zawahiri took over in 2011,” analysts Colin P. Clarke and Asfandyar Mir wrote for Rand in 2020. “Some terrorism analysts …

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