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Osama bin Laden sits with his successor Ayman al-Zawahri.

REUTERS/Hamid Mir

What We’re Watching: US kills Al-Qaida leader, Pelosi's Taiwan pit stop, Yemen holds its breath, tensions rise between Kosovo and Serbs

US kills al-Qaida leader

President Joe Biden addressed the nation Monday night to make an announcement 21 years in the making: the US killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri in a drone strike in Kabul over the weekend. Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man and key architect in the 9/11 terror attacks was killed in the first US attack in Afghanistan since the American withdrawal last August. The operation – a major counterterrorism coup for Biden – reportedly saw al-Zawahri killed at the home of a staffer to senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. A CIA ground team, with the help of aerial reconnaissance, has confirmed the death. “My hope is that this decisive action will bring one more measure of closure,” Biden told loved ones of 9/11 victims. He also warned that the US “will always remain vigilant … to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and around the globe.” With al-Qaida franchises having cropped up globally over the past decade, the death of Zawahri – who was wary of the brand’s localization and its effect on his authority – will present a challenge for control of the militant group.

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Osama bin Laden sits with al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri in 2001.

Reuters.

US braces for impact as UN finds al-Qaida resurgent

Al-Qaida is resurging in Afghanistan. The militant group is recruiting, raising funds, positioning itself to conduct long-distance attacks, even upping its propaganda, and remains close to the Taliban.

That’s according to a new UN Security Council report, compiled with intelligence from member states. The report, released by the UN office monitoring international sanctions on the Taliban, has further claimed that al-Qaida’s core – under Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri’s leadership and estimated to be several dozen-people strong – is located in eastern Afghanistan’s Zabul and Kunar provinces, along the border with Pakistan, where the terrorists have enjoyed a “historical presence.” It also noted that some members were reportedly living in Kabul’s former diplomatic quarters, where they have access to the Taliban-run Ministry for Foreign Affairs, though this wasn’t confirmed by the investigators.

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Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro adjusts his protective face mask during a news conference to announce measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brasilia, Brazil March 18, 2020.

REUTERS/Adriano Machado

What We’re Watching: Bolsonaro’s COVID crimes, Mali calls al-Qaeda, Facebook gets a facelift

Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A long-running Senate investigation in Brazil has found that by downplaying the severity of COVID, dithering on vaccines, and promoting quack cures, President Jair Bolsonaro directly caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. An earlier version of the report went so far as to recommend charges of homicide and genocide as well, but that was pulled back in the final copy to a mere charge of "crimes against humanity", according to the New York Times. The 1,200-page report alleges Bolsonaro's policies led directly to the deaths of at least half of the 600,000 Brazilians who have succumbed to the virus. It's a bombshell charge, but it's unlikely to land Bolsonaro in the dock — for that to happen he'd have to be formally accused by the justice minister, an ally whom he appointed, and the lower house of parliament, which his supporters control. Still, as the deeply unpopular Bolsonaro limps towards next year's presidential election, a rap of this kind isn't going to help.

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Ian Bremmer Explains: US National Security in the 20 Years Since 9/11 | GZERO World

US national security in the 20 years since 9/11

Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, many people hoped that the death of Osama Bin Laden would signal an end to America's role as the de facto world police. Instead, 20 years later we are seeing the impact of US national security policy play out once more in Afghanistan. The Taliban is now back in control, a local ISIS group has claimed responsibility for the bloody attack on August 26, and big questions remain about what America's war there actually accomplished. America's image abroad has been hurt by high civilian casualties to torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, while policies implemented in the US in the name of security included huge (and at times even illegal) surveillance dragnets of US citizens and gave law enforcement unprecedented powers. But the United States has avoided another catastrophic 9/11-style attack on our soil. On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer explores the question: is the US actually safer today than before the towers fell?

Watch the episode: Is America Safer Since 9/11?

Jess Frampton

The alternative versions of 9/11

As pivotal as they were, there was certainly nothing inevitable about the September 11th attacks — or their aftermath. Here we imagine five separate scenarios for how things might have gone differently.

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"Next 9/11 Is On Biden’s Watch” — Rep. Mike Waltz On US Leaving Afghanistan | GZERO World

"Next 9/11 is on Biden’s watch”: Rep. Mike Waltz on US leaving Afghanistan

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Afghan security forces kill senior Al-Qaeda leader Abu Muhsin al-Masri

October 25, 2020 3:50 AM

Al-Masri is believed to be Al-Qaeda's second-in-command.

The slow US retreat from Afghanistan

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, US President George W. Bush demanded that Afghanistan's Taliban government surrender Osama bin Laden and end support for al-Qaeda. The Taliban refused.

On October 7, US bombs began falling on Taliban forces. NATO allies quickly pledged support for the US, and US boots hit the ground in Afghanistan two weeks later.

Thus began a war, now the longest in US history, that has killed more than 3,500 coalition soldiers and 110,000 Afghans. It has cost the American taxpayer nearly $3 trillion. US allies have also made human and material sacrifices.

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