The U.S. achieved two major objectives in the counterterrorism operation to eliminate al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, allowing it to avoid civilian casualties with a type of missile without troops in Kabul.
For a year, U.S. officials have said it would be difficult, but not impossible, to eliminate the terrorist threat in Afghanistan after their troops withdraw.
Last weekend, the US achieved that goal by killing al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a CIA drone strike.
In the past, such airstrikes have killed innocent civilians indiscriminately, but for the Kabul operation, the United States carefully selected a type of Hellfire missile that minimized the chances of the attack causing more casualties, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Without public confirmation from U.S. officials about the Hellfire variant used, experts and sources familiar with counterterrorism operations explained that as a possible option. The top secret Hellfire R9XKnown by various nicknames such as ‘Knife Bomb’ or ‘Flying Jinsu’.
According to former intelligence analyst Clone Kitchen, the potential use of the R9X suggests that the US intended to kill al-Zawahri “Limited probability of death and collateral destruction and for other related political reasons”.
Originally designed as an anti-tank missile in the 1980s, the Hellfire has been used by military and intelligence agencies to strike targets in Iraq, Afghanistan or Yemen over the past two decades.
Precision guided missiles can be mounted on helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles and are widely used in combat around the world.
More than 100,000 Hellfire missiles have been sold to the United States and other countries, according to Ryan Probst, an analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank.
“It can cause enough damage to destroy most targets, such as vehicles and buildings, without destroying city blocks or causing significant civilian casualties,” Probst pointed out.
The U.S. military has routinely used Hellfire missiles to kill key targets, including a senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria last year and al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011.
For last weekend’s attack, the Americans had several options, including the use of traditional inferno fire, a bomb dropped from a manned aircraft or a deadly attack by ground forces.
For example, the US Navy’s elite SEALs flew into Pakistan in helicopters to shoot down Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid.
In this case, the CIA chose a drone strike, and the US intelligence agency did not confirm or provide details on its counterterrorism operations, sources in the Joe Biden administration explained. Two Hellfire missiles were fired at the balcony of the building where al-Zawahri lived.in Kabul.
Pictures taken in the building showed damage to the balcony, but The rest of the house was standingAfter the attack.
Unlike other Hellfire models, the R9X Does not carry an explosive charge. Rather, it is a series Six rotating blades That manifests in their ultimate approach to a goal, Kitchen explained.
“One of its uses is to unlock vehicles and other obstacles to reach the target without using an explosive warhead,” Clone Kitchen added.
Avoiding collateral damage was presented as the main objective of the US authorities.
A year earlier, a US drone strike using a conventional Hellfire missile crashed into a car in a Kabul neighborhood and killed 10 nearby civilians, including seven children.
A government official revealed on Monday that the US was investigating the construction of the house where al-Zawahiri was staying, to ensure that the building’s structural integrity was not threatened and the risk of civilians, including members, being killed. His family in other parts of the house.