Magazine article The Middle East

US Attempts Annihilating Al Qaeda: The Americans Are Cutting Down the Jihadist Movement's Leaders in a Savage and Largely Secret Campaign of Counter-Terror That Is Redefining How Future Wars Will Be Fought

Magazine article The Middle East

US Attempts Annihilating Al Qaeda: The Americans Are Cutting Down the Jihadist Movement's Leaders in a Savage and Largely Secret Campaign of Counter-Terror That Is Redefining How Future Wars Will Be Fought

Article excerpt

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In recent weeks, the United States and its allies have killed or captured several top Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan in an escalating counter-terrorism campaign by missile-firing Drones and elite Special Forces troops.

It's a new form of warfare that is spreading around the globe directed by US President Barack Obama. The apogee of this sudden-death campaign was the May assassination of Osama bin Laden at his Pakistani hideaway by US Navy SEALs airlifted by stealth helicopters.

These actions primarily involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the US military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and are part of a widening effort by Obama to decapitate Al Qaeda.

The primary target is Bin Laden's Egyptian successor, Ayman Al Zawahiri, seen by many as the real brains behind Al Qaeda, and his lieutenants.

US officials have been boasting for weeks that the Al Qaeda Central leadership centred in Pakistan is in disarray after losing a string of key figures following the killing of bin Laden by US Navy SEALs in his high-walled hideaway in a garrison town near Islamabad, Pakistan's capital.

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John Brennan, Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser, declared in June, after Bin Laden's assassination, that US leaders envision "the demise of Al Qaeda's core leadership in the coming years".

Brennan said that since Obama took office in January 2009, more than half of Al Qaeda's senior commanders have been eliminated and virtually every other jihadist branch has lost its key leaders or operational chiefs.

Among those killed recently were Anwar Al Aklawi, chief ideologue of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), killed by Hellfire missiles fired by a CIA drone in an aerial ambush in Yemen in September.

New campaign

Aklawi, who was born in New Mexico, was the first US citizen assassinated by the US government in its global kill-or-capture campaign against the jihadist network.

In recent weeks the Americans have stepped up this campaign against AQAP and the Al Shabaab group in Somalia that is linked to Al Qaeda.

They're using secret bases in the Arabian Peninsula, the Seychelles and Ethiopia, as well as the US counter-terrorism base at Camp Lemonnier, a former French Foreign Legion base in Djibouti, across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen.

All the signs are that in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces, the campaign to wipe out Al Qaeda's senior and mid-level leadership is escalating sharply.

Among other top jihadists who have been killed is the one-eyed Mohammed Ilyas Kashmiri, one of Al Qaeda's most dangerous commanders and strategists, who was reported killed in a US Drone strike in South Waziristan on 3 June.

Atiyah Abdel Rahman, who became Al Qaeda's second-in-command when Zawahiri took over from Bin Laden, was killed in a missile strike by a US MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Pakistan's North Waziristan on 22 August.

The Libyan's demise was seen as particularly significant because he was one of the new generation of leaders who many in Al Qaeda hoped would take greater control following bin Laden's death.

Pakistan's cooperation

On 5 September, the Pakistani military announced the capture several days earlier of Younis Al Mauritani in the city of Quetta in the badlands of southwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border and long considered a jihadist safe haven.

Mauritani was in charge of Al Qaeda's international operations and had been tasked by Bin laden to plan attacks on key economic targets in the United States, Europe and Australia.

The authenticity of a purported Islamist communique verifying Kashmiri's demise has been questioned, on the grounds the Kashmir-born veteran who headed Al Qaeda's so-called Shadow Army, may have faked his own death to throw off his pursuers. …

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