Drone strike reportedly killed Al Qaeda No. 3 Mustafa Abu al-Yazid
Al Qaeda's central leadership says it lost Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a founding member of the group, in a May 22 drone strike in Pakistan's tribal area.
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Al-Yazid had little background in leading combat operations. But terrorism experts say his advantage was that he was close to Taliban leader Mullah Omar. As a fluent Pashto speaker known for impeccable manners, al-Yazid enjoyed better relations with the Afghans than many of the al-Qaida Arabs, whom the Afghans found arrogant and abrasive.
That suggested a conscious decision by al-Qaida to embed within the Taliban organization, helping the Afghan allies with expertise and training while at the same time putting an Afghan face on the war.
Drone strikes, which have increased during the Obama administration, have incited anger from Pakistan’s public because of the civilian casualties they cause. CNN reported last year that the US’s drone strategy in Pakistan has been extremely controversial because of the high reported civilian death toll, which has fueled anti-American sentiment among the local population.
The drones are very effective technology; they have killed or wounded some senior terrorists. But they're just a tactic, they're not a strategy. You're not going to close down Pakistan's jihadist Frankenstein simply from 30,000 feet in the air. They can be a very good way to disrupt and sometimes dismantle terrorist activities, but they're never going to defeat it by themselves.
US security officials believe Yazid’s death is an important victory for counterterrorism efforts.
Writing in The Middle East Quarterly in spring 2008, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Kyle Dabruzzi had argued that Al Qaeda has a “resilient central leadership,” which enhances the security risk posed by the group.
While Al-Qaeda's regional nodes will remain terrorist forces in their own right, the senior leadership is indeed back. With a safe haven in Pakistan—and perhaps soon in other territories—the senior leadership will likely play a greater role in future plots while attempting to conceptualize and carry out an attack that will surpass 9-11. A strong central leadership makes the group more formidable and its attacks more deadly; dismissing the evidence that Al-Qaeda's leadership has regrouped will ultimately endanger U.S. security.
NPR’s news blog links to a useful map illustrating the locations of drone attacks in Pakistan.
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