President Biden on Sunday touted the killings of two al Qaeda leaders following the 9/11 attacks as he marked the 21-year anniversary of the attacks during a ceremony at the Pentagon.
“The enduring resolve of the American people to defend ourselves against those who seek us harm and deliver justice to those responsible for the attacks against our people has never once faltered,” Biden said.
“It took 10 years to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden, but we did, and this summer I authorized a successful strike on [Ayman] al-Zawahiri,” he continued.
Al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy, took control of al Qaeda after bin Laden’s killing in 2011 and died in a U.S. drone strike in late July.
Biden completed the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer, ending a roughly 20-year presence that began in 2001 shortly after the attacks.
The withdrawal came as the Taliban quickly regained control of the country, leading to troubling scenes at the Kabul airport where thousands attempted to flee the country.
Thousands hoping to escape still remain trapped in Afghanistan or in other countries as they attempt to reach the United States.
Now more than one year following the withdrawal, Biden is leveraging the killing of al-Zawahiri as proof that the U.S. retains an ability to fight al Qaeda and other terrorist groups without any ground forces in Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan is over, but our commitment to preventing another attack [against] the United States is without end,” Biden said at the Pentagon.
“Our intelligence, defense and counterterrorism professionals in the building behind me and across the government continue their vigilance against terrorist threats that [have] evolved and spread to new regions of the world,” he added.
Others have noted that al-Zawahiri lived in Afghanistan’s capital when he was killed, casting doubt on the Taliban’s commitment to not allow al Qaeda to operate in areas the Taliban controls under the Doha Agreement.
Biden on Sunday vowed to not hesitate and to disrupt terrorist activities “wherever they exist.”
“What was destroyed, we have repaired,” Biden said. “What was threatened, we fortified. What was attacked, an indomitable spirit has never, ever wavered.”