Sep 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Al-Qaeda leader appears in new video on 9/11 anniversary

AQ leader

Photo capture of 2003 Al Jazeera interview with then-al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

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.

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