Al-Zawahri’s Death Puts the Focus Back on Al Qaeda

The killing of Al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, in a C.I.A. drone strike marks a pivotal inflection point for the global organization with regards to leadership succession. It is predicted that Saif al-Adel, a senior Qaeda leader wanted by the F.B.I. in the bombings of two United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, was likely to succeed al-Zawahri. Al Qaeda’s far-flung affiliates such as the Al Shabab, the franchise in Somalia and the rest of East Africa enjoy local autonomy and specialists say that it is expected that al-Zawahri ‘s death will most likely have little impact franchises’ day-to-day operations. Indeed in the past years Al Shabab has only grown stronger and bolder due to the lack of effective governance and counterterrorism pressure. By redeploy hundreds of Special Operations forces, having a “persistent presence” capped at around 450, limiting airstrikes to those meant to defend partner forces facing an immediate threat, approving a Pentagon request for standing authority to target about a dozen suspected leaders of Al Shabab, the Biden administration’s strategy in Somalia is to try to reduce the threat from Al Shabab by suppressing its ability to plot and carry out complicated operations. In West Africa despite deployment of the French troops and a U.N. peacekeeping force militants from both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State continue to fight local governments in countries like Mali, Burkina Faso displacing millions.