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Banks Quoted in BBC News Article on Accuracy of US Strike on al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri

August 3, 2022


William C. Banks

William C. Banks

Earlier this week, two missiles slammed into the balcony of a Kabul compound, killing al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri but leaving his wife and daughter unscathed inside. The U.S. has faced criticism in the past for targeting errors that have killed civilians. In this instance, the type of missile and a close study of Zawahiri's habits made the precise strike possible.

William Banks, professor emeritus of public administration and international affairs and expert on targeted killings, says that officials would have had to balance the risk of civilian deaths with the value of the target. The Zawahiri strike, he adds, "sounds like a model application" of the process.

"It sounds like they were very careful and deliberate in this instance to find him in a location and at a time when they could hit just him and not harm any other person," Banks says.

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