Kirby: US has ‘visual confirmation’ of al Qaeda leader’s death in missile strike

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the White House, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

White House national security spokesman John Kirby on Tuesday said the United States has “visual confirmation” that a CIA drone strike killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and officials would not need further corroboration.

Speaking with Brianna Keilar on CNN’s “New Day,” Kirby said the operation over the weekend, as President Biden announced Monday, killed al-Zawahiri on the third floor balcony of his safe house in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“We do not have DNA confirmation, Brianna. We’re not going to get that confirmation,” Kirby said. “Quite frankly, Brianna, based on the multiple sources and methods that we have gathered the information from, we don’t need it.”

Following Biden’s announcement, a senior administration official told reporters that the U.S. intelligence community has “high confidence” that the person killed was al-Zawahiri. 

The official said the strike was conducted with Hellfire missiles on Saturday night Eastern time, which is Sunday morning in Kabul. 

On Tuesday, Kirby echoed other officials who have said the strike did not injure or kill any civilians, adding that it caused minor damage to the building’s structure.

“The strike was done in a very precise, very deliberate and very constrained way to do exactly what it was intended to do: kill one man,” Kirby said on CNN.

Kirby also touted the operation as proof the United States can continue thwarting terrorist threats in Afghanistan after Biden pulled U.S. troops from the country last summer in what was largely seen as a chaotic withdrawal.

“If I’m an al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan right now, I bet you I’m thinking that it’s not quite the safe-haven I once thought it was,” Kirby said.

He added that al-Zawahiri’s setup in Kabul constituted a violation of the Doha Agreement, a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban that commits the group to preventing al Qaeda operations in areas under their control.

“The strike itself is a measure of accountability,” Kirby said.

“The strike itself tells them, shows them how serious we are about our desire never to see Afghanistan become a safe haven again for the launch of attacks against our homeland, and it shows them the degree to which we’re capable of doing this without boots on the ground,” he added.

Tags Afghanistan Al Qaeda Al Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri Ayman al-Zawahiri CIA drone strike Joe Biden John Kirby John Kirby Kabul U.S. missile strikes White House

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