Noten 30 t/m 33/Kritiek op twee Volkskrant artikelen





2 AUGUST 2022

A spokesperson for the Afghan Taliban on Tuesday condemned a US military strike on a residential house in Kabul, in which the US claimed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed. Chinese experts said the so-called anti-terrorist action is a violation of the territorial sovereignty of Afghanistan and may be a strategy to gain political points at the upcoming midterm elections. 

The spokesperson for Afghan Taliban Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed on Tuesday in a statement that the airstrike on a house in the Shirpur area in Kabul was carried out by US drones, and called it “a clear violation of international principles and the Doha Agreement,” which the US signed with the Taliban in 2020 that led to the withdrawal of US forces.

US President Joe Biden announced on Monday that the US “successfully concluded an airstrike in Kabul that killed the emir of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri,” and claimed that “now justice has been delivered,” according to a White House statement.

The US did not alert Taliban officials ahead of the strike, reported CNN. 

The White House statement claimed that none of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s family members were hurt, and there were no civilian casualties.  

Al-Zawahri was on the balcony of his house on Sunday when two Hellfire missiles were launched from an unmanned drone killing him, according to AP News. 

However, doubts are raised on the authenticity of such claims.  Li Wei, an expert on national security at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the drone attack in a densely populated area could have caused damage to surrounding buildings or even casualties among local residents considering the large impact of the Hellfire missiles. 

Experts said the US military attack was a violation of the territorial sovereignty of Afghanistan. 

“Any military activities and strikes within the territory of a country without first informing its government will constitute a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country no matter what the legitimacy is,” Li told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The Taliban’s statement said Afghanistan “strongly condemns this attack on any cause.” 

The US has once again openly trampled on Afghan territorial sovereignty after its troops’ withdrawal in 2021, which proved that the country has “never really changed” despite its commitment. The strike aimed to show that it still has unmatched influence in Afghan affairs and to expunge the humiliation of having to leave Afghanistan, said a Beijing-based expert on international affairs who requested anonymity.

“The two-decade US-led war in Afghanistan is one of the main reasons why the country is still vulnerable to terrorism. The political chaos and economic depression in Afghanistan have made the whole country and even the region spin out of control for a long time, which has become a hotbed of terrorism and led to Afghanistan becoming a stronghold for many terrorist organizations,” said the expert. 

Some experts suspect the airstrike against Ayman al-Zawahiri came because the critical US midterm elections are close. The country has historically conducted anti-terrorism operations as a political tool to serve its political interests at home, Li said. 

Li added the solutions to eradicating terrorism come from addressing Afghan domestic issues, such as economic issues and people’s livelihoods, which the US is responsible for. 

The US is widely criticized in the world for illegally freezing $7 billion Afghan central bank assets. The international community has urged the US to unfreeze and return the money that belongs to the Afghan people in full to help overcome the humanitarian crisis in the country especially after a massive earthquake in June. 



4) Did international law require the U.S. to get permission from the Taliban to conduct an airstrike in Afghanistan?

As a general proposition, “each State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory.”  In this instance, the situation is more complicated in that while the Taliban has become the de facto rulers of Afghanistan, no country has formally recognized them.  Nevertheless, they have objected to the strike.


3 AUGUST 2022


No recognition

No country has yet recognized the Taliban as legitimate rulers of the country, mainly over their harsh treatment of Afghan women and girls.”





Afghanistan’s Taliban have alleged the United States is blocking their way to securing international recognition for the Islamist group’s new government in Kabul.

The insurgent-turned-ruling group seized power last August and installed an all-male interim administration following the end of almost 20 years of U.S.-led foreign military intervention in the war-torn South Asian country.

“As far as recognition by foreign countries is concerned, I think the United States is the biggest obstacle,” chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said when asked to explain whether his group’s policies or any country was responsible for the delay in winning the legitimacy.

“It [America] does not allow other countries to move in this direction and has itself not taken any step on this count either,” he said, while responding to reporters’ questions via a Taliban-run WhatsApp group for reporters.

Mujahid claimed that the Taliban had met “all the requirements” for their government to be given diplomatic recognition.

He asserted all countries, including the United States, need to realize that political engagement with the Taliban is in “everyone’s interest.” It would allow the world to formally discuss “the grievances” they have with the Taliban.

Mujahid insisted Taliban leaders “want better” bilateral ties with the U.S. in line with the agreement the two countries signed in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020. Washington also needs to move toward establishing better ties with Kabul, he said.

“We were enemies and fighting the United States so long as it had occupied Afghanistan. That war has ended now.”

No recognition

No country has yet recognized the Taliban as legitimate rulers of the country, mainly over their harsh treatment of Afghan women and girls. The group is also being pressed to govern the country through a broad-based political system where all Afghan groups have their representation to ensure long-term national stability.

Since taking control of Afghanistan 10 months ago, the Taliban have suspended secondary education for most teenage girls and prevented female staff in certain government departments from returning to their duties.

The Ministry for Vice and Virtue, tasked with interpreting and enforcing the Taliban’s version of Islam, has ordered women to wear face coverings in public. Women are barred from traveling beyond 70 kilometers unless accompanied by a male relative.

The Taliban have rejected calls for removing the curbs on women and Mujahid also defended them. “The orders… regarding women are in accordance with [Islamic] Shariah, and these are the rules of Shariah,” he asserted.

The Taliban are “religiously” obliged to implement Islamic Sharia to counter practices that Islam prohibits, Mujahid said, without elaborating.

“Hopefully Afghan women will also not make demands for things that are against the principles of Islam.”

Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors and regional countries also have urged Taliban authorities to ease their restrictions on women before they could consider opening formal ties with Kabul.

“[An] inclusive ethnopolitical government should be the first step toward this. We make no secret of this, and we say so outright to our Afghan partners,” Zamir Kabulov, Russian special envoy for Afghanistan, said earlier this week, when asked whether Moscow was close to giving the Taliban legitimacy.

Additionally, scholars in many Islamic countries have disapproved of the Taliban’s ban on female education and other policies limiting women’s access to public life.

Al-Qaida presence

Mujahid claimed neither al-Qaida nor any of its members are present in the country, saying they all left Afghanistan for their native countries after the October 2001 U.S.-led military invasion.

Washington blames leaders of the terrorist network for plotting the September 11, 2001, attacks on America from the then-Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

At the time, only three countries — Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — had recognized the Taliban. During their rule from 1996-2001, the group had completely banned women from public life and girls from receiving an education, leading to Afghanistan’s diplomatic isolation.

Mujahid reiterated Kabul’s resolve that it will not allow anyone to threaten the U.S. and its allies by using Afghan soil. “We are ready for this, but only if further steps are taken to build mutual trust and strengthen political ties.”

A United Nations report said last month the Taliban continued to maintain close ties with al-Qaida, pointing to the reported presence of the network’s “core leadership” in eastern Afghanistan, including its leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.

The report noted, however, that neither al-Qaida nor the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) “is believed to be capable of mounting international attacks before 2023 at the earliest, regardless of their intent or of whether the Taliban acts to restrain them.”






6 AUGUST 2022

President Joe Biden’s assassination of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan was illegal under both U.S. and international law. After the CIA drone strike killed Zawahiri on August 2, Biden declared, “People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer.” What we should fear instead is the dangerous precedent set by Biden’s unlawful extrajudicial execution.

In addition to being illegal, the killing of Zawahiri also occurred in a moment when the United Nations had already determined that people in the U.S. had little to fear from him. As a United Nations report released in July concluded, “Al Qaeda is not viewed as posing an immediate international threat from its safe haven in Afghanistan because it lacks an external operational capability and does not currently wish to cause the Taliban international difficulty or embarrassment.”

Just as former president Barack Obama stated that “Justice has been done” after he assassinated Osama bin Laden, Biden said, “Now justice has been delivered” when he announced the assassination of Zawahiri.

Retaliation, however, does not constitute justice.

Targeted, or political, assassinations are extrajudicial executions. They are deliberate and unlawful killings meted out by order of, or with acquiescence of, a government. Extrajudicial executions are implemented outside a judicial framework.

The fact that Zawahiri did not pose an imminent threat is precisely why his assassination was illegal.

Zawahiri’s Assassination Violated International Law

Extrajudicial executions are prohibited by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the United States has ratified, making it part of U.S. law under the Constitution’s supremacy clause. Article 6 of the ICCPR states, “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” In its interpretation of Article 6, The UN Human Rights Committee opined that all human beings are entitled to the protection of the right to life “without distinction of any kind, including for persons suspected or convicted of even the most serious crimes.”

“Outside the context of active hostilities, the use of drones or other means for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal,” tweeted Agnès Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “Intentionally lethal or potentially lethal force can only be used where strictly necessary to protect against an imminent threat to life.” In order to be lawful, the United States would need to demonstrate that the target “constituted an imminent threat to others,” Callamard said.

Moreover, willful killing is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, punishable as a war crime under the U.S. War Crimes Act. A targeted killing is lawful only when deemed necessary to protect life, and no other means (including apprehension or nonlethal incapacitation) is available to protect life.

Zawahiri’s Assassination Violated U.S. Law

The drone strike that killed Zawahiri also violated the War Powers Resolution, which lists three situations in which the president can introduce U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities:

First, pursuant to a congressional declaration of war, which has not occurred since World War II. Second, in “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” (Zawahiri’s presence in Afghanistan more than 20 years after the September 11, 2001, attacks did not constitute a “national emergency.”) Third, when there is “specific statutory authorization,” such as an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

In 2001, Congress adopted an AUMF that authorized the president to use military force against individuals, groups and countries that had contributed to the 9/11 attacks “in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

Zawahiri was one of a small circle of people widely believed to have planned the 2001 hijacking of four airplanes, three of which were flown into the Pentagon and World Trade Center buildings. But since he did not pose “an immediate international threat” before the U.S. targeted him for assassination, he should have been arrested and brought to justice in accordance with the law.

The attack against Zawahiri violated Obama’s targeting rules, which required that the target pose a “continuing imminent threat.” Although Donald Trump relaxed Obama’s rules, Biden is conducting a secret review to establish his own standards for targeting killing.

Biden Continues to Launch Illegal Drone Strikes

In spite of the Biden administration’s claim that no civilians were killed during the strike on Zawahiri, there has been no independent evidence to support that assertion.

The assassination of Zawahiri came nearly a year after Biden launched an illegal strike as he withdrew U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Ten civilians were killed in that attack. The U.S. Central Command admitted the strike was “a tragic mistake” after an extensive New York Times investigation put a lie to the prior U.S. declaration that it was a “righteous strike.”

Biden declared that although he was withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan, he would mount “over-the-horizon” attacks from outside the country even without troops on the ground. We can expect the Biden administration to conduct future illegal drone strikes that kill civilians.

The 2001 AUMF has been used to justify U.S. military actions in 85 countries. Congress must repeal it and replace it with a new AUMF specifically requiring that any use of force comply with U.S. obligations under international law.

In addition, Congress should revisit the War Powers Resolution and explicitly limit the president’s authority to use force to that which is necessary to repel a sudden or imminent attack.

Finally, the United States must end its “global war on terror” once and for all. Drone strikes terrorize and kill countless civilians and make us more vulnerable to terrorism.






Just over an hour after sunrise on 31 July, long-time al-Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahiri walked out onto the balcony of a downtown Kabul compound – reportedly a favourite post-prayer activity of the veteran Egyptian jihadist.

It would be the last thing he would do.

At 06:18 local time (01:38 GMT), two missiles slammed into the balcony, killing the 71-year-old but leaving his wife and daughter unscathed inside. All the damage from the strike appears to be centred on the balcony.

How was it possible to strike so precisely? In the past the US has faced criticism for strikes and targeting errors that have killed civilians.

But in this case, here’s how the type of missile, and a close study of Zawahiri’s habits, made it happen – and why more strikes could follow.

Laser accuracy

The type of missile used was key – and these were said by US officials to be drone-fired Hellfires – a type of air-to-surface missile that has become a fixture of US counter-terrorism operations overseas in the decades since the 11 September 2001 attacks.

The missile can be fired from a variety of platforms, including helicopters, ground vehicles, ships and fixed wing aircraft – or, in Zawahiri’s case, from an unmanned drone.

The US is believed to have used Hellfires to kill Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in early 2020, and the British-born Islamic State jihadist known as “Jihadi John” in Syria in 2015.

Among the main reasons for the Hellfire’s repeated use is its precision.

When a missile is launched from a drone, a weapons operator – sometimes sitting in an air-conditioned control room as far away as the continental US – sees a live video stream of the target, which the drone’s camera sensors feed back via satellite.

Using a set of “targeting brackets” on the screen, the camera operator is then able to “lock up” the target and point a laser at it. Once the missile is fired, it follows the path of that laser until striking the target.

There are clear, sequential procedures the crew operating the drone must follow before taking action, to minimise the risk of civilian casualties. In past US military or CIA strikes, this has included calling on military lawyers for consultations before the order to fire is given.

Professor William Banks, an expert on targeted killings and the founder of the Syracuse University Institute for Security Policy and Law, said that officials would have had to balance the risk of civilian deaths with the value of the target.

The Zawahiri strike, he added, “sounds like a model application” of the process.

“It sounds like they were very careful and deliberate in this instance to find him in a location and at a time when they could hit just him and not harm any other person,” Prof Banks said.

In the case of the Zawahiri strike, it has been suggested, but not confirmed, that the US also used a relatively unknown version of the Hellfire – the R9X – which deploys six blades to slice through targets using its kinetic energy.

In 2017, another al-Qaeda leader and one of Zawahiri’s deputies, Abu Khayr al-Masri, was reportedly killed with an R9X Hellfire in Syria. Photos of his vehicle taken after the strike showed that the missile had cut a hole in the roof and shredded its occupants, but without signs of an explosion or any further destruction to the vehicle.

US tracked Zawahiri’s ‘balcony habit’

Details are still emerging about what intelligence the US gathered before launching the Kabul strike.

In the aftermath of the attack, however, US officials said they had enough information to understand Zawahiri’s “pattern of life” at the house – such as his balcony habit.

This suggests US spies had been watching the house for weeks, if not months.

Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior official at the CIA, told the BBC that it is likely that a variety of intelligence methods were used before the strike, including spies on the ground and signals intelligence.

Some have also speculated that US drones or aircraft took turns monitoring the location for weeks or months, unheard and unseen from the ground below.

“You need something that’s near certainty that it is the individual, and it also has to be done in a collateral free environment, meaning no civilian casualties,” he said. “It takes a lot of patience.”

The Zawahiri strike, Mr Polymeropoulos added, benefited from the US intelligence community’s decades of experience tracking down individual al-Qaeda figures and other terrorist targets.

“We are outstanding at this. It’s something that the US government has gotten very good at over 20 years,” he said. “And Americans are far safer for it.”

However, US operations of this kind do not always go according to plan. On 29 August 2021, a drone strike on a car just north of Kabul airport, intended to target a local branch of the Islamic State group, killed 10 innocent people instead. The Pentagon acknowledged that a “tragic mistake” had been made.

Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies who has been tracking US drone strikes for many years, said that the Zawahiri strike was likely “much more difficult” than previous killings to execute, given the absence of any US government presence or assets nearby.

Past drone strikes against nearby Pakistan, for example, were flown from Afghanistan, while strikes against Syria would have been conducted from friendly territory in Iraq.

“[In those places] it was far easier for the US to reach those areas. It had assets on the ground. This was far more complicated,” he said. “This is the first strike against al-Qaeda or the Islamic State in Afghanistan since the US left. This isn’t a common occurrence.”

Could this happen again?

Mr Roggio said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if similar strikes against al-Qaeda targets take place in Afghanistan again.

“There is no dearth of targets,” he said. “The potential next leaders [of al-Qaeda] will very likely be moving to Afghanistan, if they’re not there already.”

“The question is if the US still has the ability to do this with ease, or is it going to be a difficult process?” he added.


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