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.”
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