Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri appeared in a new video released on Saturday, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, according to the Associated Press.
Why it matters: Last November, rumors spread that Osama bin Laden’s former No. 2 had died from an illness though senior leadership never commented. In the new video, al-Zawahri makes references that extend to at least January, according to the monitoring group SITE Intelligence.
- Al-Zawahri discusses the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan but not the Taliban takeover, suggesting the possibility this may not be a recent reference. Under Donald Trump, the United States entered into an agreement with the Taliban committing to leave Afghanistan in February 2020.
- The only specific date referenced by al-Zawahri in the video is a Jan. 1 attack, which targeted Russian troops near the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.
The big picture: President Biden and his national security advisers have downplayed the threat posed by al-Qaeda following the United States’ withdrawal.
- Al-Qaeda’s power remains unclear, but the Taliban released many of the group’s senior operatives when it captured Bagram Air Base last month.
- Civil war will “likely” erupt in Afghanistan and this could lead to al-Qaeda’s resurgence, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fox News.
Of note: Biden now plans to combat terror groups in Afghanistan from “over the horizon,” and warns that the threat has “metastasized” beyond Afghanistan and al-Qaeda.
Go deeper: Counterterrorism goes remote after 20 years