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Terrorism & Security

Al Qaeda takes multiple hits from US forces

In September, Al Qaeda took losses in Somalia, Indonesia, and Pakistan.

By David Montero / September 29, 2009



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September has seen a number of US efforts to combat Al Qaeda affiliates around the world.

In Somalia, US Special Forces in attack helicopters swooped over a deserted track of land, targeting and killing a leading militant associated with Al Qaeda. Days later, an American-trained anti-terrorism squad in Indonesia corned and killed Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorist. And in recent days, American soldiers have waded deep inside the jungles of the Philippines alongside their Philippines counterparts, providing logistical support in a military operation that neutralized several bases of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

Taken together, the incidents show how the US has stepped up the global fight it has been waging for the last eight years and is pairing its intelligence and special operations teams alongside the militaries of foreign governments.

But those efforts come at the risk of a backlash against the US in countries where the conflict is being fought and strained diplomatic relations.

For example, the US Special Forces raid in Somalia resulted in the death of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a leader of Somalia's Al Qaeda-linked Shahab group and a possible mastermind of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Nabhan had eluded US and African authorities for years. His death was hailed a major blow to Al-Qaeda, according to the New York Times.

But it has also been heavily criticized by Kenyan officials, who resent the "lone-ranger behavior" of the US acting on its own and possibly inflaming anti-Western sentiment in an already volatile region, Reuters reported.

Kenyans are not the only ones to criticize this behavior from the US. In Pakistan, US predator drone strikes have been highly effective – in August a drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud - but landed the Obama administration in turbulent waters. The Pakistani public abhors the attacks, which often lead to civilian deaths. Pakistan's government has struggled to adopt a coherent policy toward the strikes, both condemning them publicly and privately approving them.

American counter-intelligence officials say that strikes in Somalia, Indonesia, and Pakistan have been "a major near-term blow to their respective militant groups," the Associated Press reported.

As such, the attacks are likely to continue. But as the recent events in the Philippines suggest, they risk entangling the US military in possible breaches of foreign law.

Some 600 US servicemen are embedded alongside the Philippines military in the southern Philippines, according to Bloomberg, but they are relegated to the role of advisors, and are not supposed to engage in combat operations there, unless in self-defense.

But as the Philippines military made a big push against militant strong holds this month, American soldiers are said to have engaged in firefights, in one incident firing on a mosque. If true that would constitute a violation of the Philippines constitution, according to Dateline Phillipines, a local news source.

As a result the Philippines Senate is calling for a cancellation of the 10-year-old Visiting Forces Agreement that allows US troops to remain there, reports China's Xinhua news service.

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