Republicans join Democrats in praising Biden for death of al Qaeda leader Zawahiri

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Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised the White House on Monday after it was announced that the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had been killed by a drone strike in Afghanistan. 

“Al-Qaeda has been responsible for brutal attacks in not only the US, but Asia, Africa, and Europe,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va. “I commend the efforts of our intelligence officers and men and women in uniform for finally – 21 yrs after the horrific 9/11 attacks – bringing one of its last remaining leaders to justice.” 

Republicans and Democrats alike were quick to commend President Biden for taking action against the 71-year-old terrorist. Zawahiri, a one-time surgeon, had led al Qaeda since the 2011 death of Osama bin Laden. 

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“The killing of Al-Zawahiri is a vivid reminder to terrorists everywhere that if you kill Americans or attack America, no matter how much time passes, the United States will find you and bring you to justice,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a statement. “Congratulations and lasting gratitude to our country’s shadow warriors.”

“Congratulations to the Biden Administration and all those brave Americans involved in the successful counterterrorism operation against al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “This is a significant event in the War on Terror. All those involved have delivered a strong message that America never forgets.” 

FILE - Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a news conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington on April 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

FILE – Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a news conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington on April 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Zawahiri, who helped plan the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was killed on Saturday by a drone strike in Kabul

“The news of the successful hit on Ayman al-Zawahiri stopped me in my tracks,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich. “Targeting one senior leader does not end the capacity of an organization to attack, but it does send a message that, while it may take years, we do not forget those who attack us. I commend the president for making the tough call and the national security team for this success.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, echoed the sentiment in a statement released to the public. 

“All Americans will breathe easier today knowing Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda, has been eliminated,” said Cruz. “This strike should be a message to terrorists near and far: if you conspire to kill Americans, we will find and kill you.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during the leadership forum at the National Rifle Association annual meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center, May 27, 2022, in Houston.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during the leadership forum at the National Rifle Association annual meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center, May 27, 2022, in Houston.

Given Zawahiris’ presence in Afghanistan at the time of death, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the White House needed to brief Congress as to whether al Qaeda was using the country as a safe haven to commit terrorism. 

The Biden administration must provide Congress with a classified briefing as soon as possible to discuss the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the region over the past year, the current foreign terrorist threat to America, and the steps we must take to keep our country safe and prevent terrorists from entering the United States,” said McCarthy. 

Although much of the response was positive, it was still not totally devoid of partisanship. 

Some Democrats were quick to use the moment to score political points against Republicans, particularly former President Donald Trump. 

“Trump recently hosted a Saudi-backed golf tournament and ridiculously said that nobody has gotten to the bottom of 9/11,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif. “Under Joe Biden, the United States killed Ayman al Zawahiri, one of the master planners of 9/11.” 

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A few Republicans, meanwhile, called the “victory lap” being taken by Biden and lawmakers ridiculous. 

“Zawahiri is credited in planning 9-11 …. but most Americans don’t know or have forgotten who he is, but once they know they will be glad he’s dead,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. “But Joe’s victory lap is ridiculous.” 

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