I Lived a ‘Frat Party’ Life in the House Where Al Qaeda Chief Zawahiri Was Killed, U.S. Aid Worker Says
Dan Smock loves the view from the balcony of his home in Kabul that he shares with American aid workers. It overlooks the rooftops of the Afghan capital, with beautiful snow-capped mountains in the distance. Smock liked it so much that he said he “hanged out on that balcony a lot” during his time in Afghanistan.
Another person who appreciated that point of view was 9/11 plotter and al Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was on air on the same balcony early Sunday morning when he killed in a US drone strike.
Osama bin Laden’s successor is said to have been crushed by a specially crafted Hellfire missile while alone on his balcony. His fateful daily routine of reading books on the beautiful rooftop about what he considered his safe home was eventually used to establish a “pattern of life” in his life. surgery kills him, according to the report.
But long before Zawahiri, 71, lived his last moments there, the same balcony was an American shelter in the heart of Kabul.
“It was a strange thing,” Smock, who now lives in Texas, told The Daily Beast. “I talked to a few people about it, people I used to live there. We’ve all gone through some of our old pictures we could find. Most of them are fuzzy or full of drunks but, you know. “
The 48-year-old said he lived in the house from 2012 to 2014. At the time, Smock was working on USAID-funded projects in Afghanistan. He has happy memories of living in the building with his colleagues in a safe bubble away from the dangers that beset Kabul at the time. “We call it ‘Kabubble’,” says Smock. “It got to a point where you really couldn’t leave, so you all just hung out together. It’s kind of like the college party experience, because I can’t go anywhere, I don’t have anything else to do, and we can drink, right? “
So imagine Smock’s surprise this week when it turned out that not only was his old house used as a hideout for the world’s most wanted terrorist, but the attack by The drone aimed at him hit the very balcony where Smock had been screaming for hours. “The first thing was, ‘That’s weird. Huh. Damned. Of course he stood on that balcony – it was a good balcony,” Smock said of his initial reaction. “Then it is strange. We actually financed that building and then we had to leave and then he was there.”
At first, Iraq veteran Smock wasn’t sure if that was really where the US government sent him. But soon, details appeared in the reports of the assassination leaving him in no doubt. The strike took place on a building in the Sherpur neighborhood behind the Ghazanfar bank. Photos taken of the building after the attack also included distinctive network-like features that Smock immediately recognized. It didn’t take long for Smock to conclude: “OK, yes, that’s the house. I probably lived on the same floor as him.”
During his time there, Smock wrote a blog called Sunny in Kabul and even used the view from the balcony as its headline image. Now, he writes novels based on his experiences in Afghanistan, and the absurdity of This week’s event, he said, was too good to miss. He loves the image of the poor real estate agent tasked with finding a new tenant for his old house. “How is he going to post this damn thing on Zillow?” Smock said. “He’s going to have to reveal the fact that, you know, al Qaeda died on the balcony.”
His personal feelings about his old home being attacked aside, Smock is skeptical of the value of operations like the one used to assassinate Zawahiri. “It was a lot like Sisyphus rolling that damn rock up the hill and it just ended up rolling back to us,” Smock said. “It frustrates me to see that we are still playing the same game of a mole. We are still working on a high value goal. We’re still thinking: ‘If we kill the top, that’ll fix it.’ And it doesn’t. “
But the feeling of security for the former US government contractor was just the weirdness of it all. “It was a very surreal experience going full circle: ‘Oh yeah, the guy who started GWOT [global war on terror] lived at my house,” he said.