US wanted al-Zawahiri 'even before the 9/11 strike' — here's why he was so crucial: Retired general
Somalia's Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab militants condemn Myanmar's "savage Buddhists" and urged Southeast Asia's Muslims to come to the aid of Rohingya Muslim boatpeople (AFP Photo/Mohamed Abdiwahab)

On Monday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling broke down the significance of the successful U.S. strike that took out Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda who took over from Osama bin Laden.

Zawahiri, noted Hertling, has been sought by the U.S. for decades — and was a critical piece of the terrorist operation.

"How significant is this strike killing the al-Qaeda leader?" asked anchor Wolf Blitzer.

"This is a target the U.S. has been going after for three decades, even before the 9/11 strike," said Hertling. "He leads al-Qaeda with various networks around the globe. Central places in control. These areas, we're talking about an individual who is the CEO of this organization. You can debate how powerful he is, compared to bin Laden, but it's a big deal."

Another important aspect, said Hertling, is how the U.S. was able to take him out despite no longer having on-the-ground intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan, having withdrawn U.S. forces last year.

"This is more than likely a drone strike. I would give that a 70 percent possibility," said Hertling. "I would not rule out a hand strike on this individual, either. What you are talking about, the kinds of things we were talking about when we withdrew from Afghanistan, this will be an over-the-horizon strike with very little capability for collecting intelligence within Afghanistan. This was a significant hit by both the intelligence community and anyone who pulled off the operation."

Watch below or at this link.

Ret. Gen. Mark Hertling on the strike against Ayman al-Zawahiri