President Biden confirmed on Monday evening that he authorized the weekend drone strike that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda.
Al-Zawahiri, 71, was "deeply involved" in the planning of the Sept. 11 attacks, Biden said, and was the "mastermind" of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors. With al-Zawahiri's death, "justice has been delivered," Biden said, and this is proof that "no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out."
Biden said that intelligence tracked al-Zawahiri down earlier this year, and he recently moved to a house in Kabul to be with his family. The drone strike was "carefully planned" in order to minimize the risk to civilians, Biden said, and when he was advised last week that "conditions were optimal," he gave final approval. "None of his family members were hurt, and there were no civilian casualties," Biden added.
The U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan one year ago this month, and Biden said that he "made a promise to the American people that we would continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We've done just that." The president went on to praise the "painstaking work" done by intelligence officials to find al-Zawahiri, and said it's his "hope that this decisive action will bring one more measure of closure" to the families of the victims of Sept. 11.