After announcing that al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had been killed in a US drone strike, Joe Biden took a well-deserved – and somewhat necessary – victory lap.
“Justice has been served, and this terrorist leader is no longer,” Biden said in televised remarks at the White House, providing the beleaguered US president with an opportunity to boost his dwindling popularity.
America’s political leaders praised Zawahiri’s death, saying he was Osama bin Laden’s deputy and helped coordinate the September 11 attacks. According to US officials, Zawahiri was recently living in a safe house in Kabul, plotting the terrorist group’s revitalization after ten years of chaos following Bin Laden’s death.
“The president is to be commended for his strong leadership in keeping Americans safe and bringing this despicable terrorist to justice,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
But the happy news comes at a good time for Biden, who has recently seen his poll numbers plummet in the face of multiple domestic and international crises. Inflation at an all-time high, the war in Ukraine, and the Supreme Court’s decision to end the federal right to abortion appear to have sparked a national sense of pessimism.
According to a Gallup poll conducted last month, Biden’s approval rating has dropped to its lowest level since the beginning of his presidency, with only 38% of Americans giving him a positive rating. Biden’s disapproval rating has risen to 59 percent, heightening Democrats’ fears of a thrashing in the November midterm elections.
But things appear to be turning around for Biden. In addition to the death of Zawahiri, the president has recently enjoyed some domestic success. Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator who previously sabotaged Biden’s signature legislative proposal, announced last week that he and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had reached an agreement.
The compromise bill still requires the support of every Democratic senator, but if passed, it would provide $369 billion in investments to combat climate change while also helping to reduce the federal deficit through a series of tax increases.
The assassination of Zawahiri and the Manchin deal, according to Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist and senior adviser to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, demonstrated how Biden and his party were delivering for all Americans.
“The country benefits from those two things, even those who did not support the president,” Seawright said. “I believe it serves as a reminder to all those in the political ecosystem – elected and non-elected, voters and non-voters – that it is critical that we have leaders who understand the issues and challenges we face, both abroad and at home, and can deal with them concurrently.”
When the United States withdrew from Afghanistan last year, Republicans and some foreign policy experts warned that the absence of the United States would leave them with little visibility in the region as the Taliban took control of Kabul. Even as the world saw heartbreaking images of desperate Afghans clinging to departing planes, Biden continued to defend his decision to withdraw troops.
Officials in the Biden administration claimed that the assassination of Zawahiri demonstrated how the US can still collect critical intelligence and conduct counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan even without boots on the ground.
Republicans, on the other hand, argued that Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul demonstrated how Afghanistan had become a haven for terrorists now that the Taliban had regained control.
“President Biden should be credited for authorizing this strike.” “However, al-return Zawahiri’s to downtown Kabul indicates that, following the president’s decision to withdraw US forces, Afghanistan is once again becoming a major thicket of terrorist activity,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said. “While assassinating al-Zawahiri was a success, the underlying resurgence of al-Qaida terrorists into Afghanistan is a growing threat that was predictable and avoidable.”
While the United States rejoices in the death of a man who contributed to the deaths of thousands of Americans, experts agree that Biden and other global leaders must remain vigilant in order to prevent future terrorist attacks.