While President Barack Obama gave the executive order for the operation that resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death in Pakistan on May 11, 2011, it was under President Joe Biden’s watch that another top al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 31, 2022. Afghanistan is now under the control of the far-right Taliban, but al-Zawahiri’s death sends out a message that even in a Taliban-controlled country, a leader al-Qaeda terrorist can’t hide from U.S. forces.
Leon Panetta, who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and later, secretary of defense under Obama, discussed al-Zawahiri’s death during an August 3 appearance on MSNBC — whose Andrea Mitchell noted now how “astonishing” it was that “as far as we know, they were no civilian deaths” even though the operation was carried out in the middle of Downtown Kabul. And Mitchell also brought up the January 6 committee’s investigation and the disappearance of Secret Service texts.
Panetta, now 84, said of al-Zawahiri’s death, “I pay tremendous tribute to our intelligence forces, our military forces that were involved, the CIA…. There’s a tremendous amount of planning involved in those kind of attacks. The ability to do constantly reconnaissance, to gather intelligence, to know that you have the right target, to be able to hit that target without any kind of collateral damage, I think, is a tribute to their capabilities. And in the end, I do think it completes a very important mission that we began on 9/11, which was to make sure we would go after those who were involved in the attack on 9/11…. It really does send a message that you don’t attack the United States and get away with it.”
Panetta, who also served as White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton, noted that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri were the “key planners” of the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 — and now, both of them have been killed by U.S. forces.
Mitchell asked Panetta, however, if he was worried that terrorists — after learning that al-Zawahiri was in Kabul at the time of his death — might consider Afghanistan a “safe haven” because the Taliban “have clearly not lived up to their agreement not to harbor terrorists after the U.S. withdrawal.”
Panetta told Mitchell, “The Taliban is now in charge of Afghanistan; there’s no question that they’re providing a safe haven for terrorists…. The fact that al-Zawahiri, one of the top leaders of al-Qaeda, could simply walk into Kabul, get an apartment in the middle of the capitol, not have anybody raise any questions sends a real signal that the Taliban is going to continue to provide a safe haven for terrorism.”
The former CIA director went on to say that terrorism has “metastasized in many ways.”
Panetta told Mitchell, “It’s ISIS, it’s Boko Haram, it’s al-Shabab in North Africa, and it continues to be al-Qaeda. So, we are facing, and continue to face, a real threat of a terrorist attack either on the United States or elsewhere. That’s one of the major flashpoints that we have to control.”
Mitchell brought up another form of violent extremism: White nationalist violence in the United States, asking Panetta to weigh on the disappearance of U.S. Secret Service texts from January 6, 2021. And he responded, “Andrea, this is another major concern: that, obviously, officials out of the Trump Administration were taking steps to make sure that potential evidence involved in January 6 would not be there. I really do think that the Justice Department has to investigate the loss of this kind of critical evidence…. This was a deliberate effort to make sure that very important evidence regarding what the players were doing at the Pentagon, at the Secret Service and elsewhere were saying and doing on January 6 — all of which is very relevant to the investigation into what happened.”
When Mitchell asked Panetta, “You’re saying this is a cover-up?” he responded, “I don’t think there’s any question that when you go from agency to agency and find out that key messages have been deleted, something’s going on here that resembles very clearly a conspiracy.”
Jan. 6-related Texts Wiped 'From Agency To Agency' Looks Like 'Conspiracy': Panetta youtu.be