The US on Thursday said it would seek and hunt down Ayman al Zawahiri, the newly named al Qaeda chief, just as it did with Osama bin Laden, who was killed last month in his Pakistani hideout.
“As we did both seek to capture and kill and succeed in killing bin Laden, we … will do the same thing with Zawahiri,” said chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Admiral Mike Mullen at a Pentagon news briefing.
Al Qaeda named Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor, its new chief on Thursday.
Though it continues to view al Qaeda as lethal as it was before the killing of bin Laden, the US considers Zawahiri a lesser threat than the man he is replacing.
“He (bin Laden) had a peculiar charisma that I think Zawahiri does not have,’ said secretary of defense Robert Gates at the same briefing, adding, “I think he was much more operationally engaged than we have the sense Zawahiri has been.”
Besides, said secretary Gates — a former CIA chief — Zawahiri is not trusted by the rest of the al Qaeda because he is an Egyptian. He is generally considered a divisive figure and abrasive.
As a long-time deputy, Zawahiri was generally considered a shoo-in to take over the al Qaeda after bin Laden’s death, but the organization took more than a month to give him the job.
There was speculation that it might even be looking at other candidates. Another Egyptian, Saif al Adel, was named the interim chief a week after bin Laden’s killing, according to reports then.
Some intelligence organizations even thought Ilyas Kashmiri, head of al Qaeda in Pakistan, might be in the running. He was killed in a drone attack in Pakistan earlier this month.