Anwar al-Awlaki, has been reported killed at least twice before. But if today’s early reports are accurate, the American-born Al Qaeda leader holding out in Yemen has finally caught the wrong end of a U.S. missile.
Thanks to Catherine Herridge’s ground-breaking investigative reporting in “The Next Wave,” we know that al-Awlaki launched his career as a hate-monger and accessory to murder long before the September 11 attacks.
He hosted two of the 9/11 hijackers when they first came to the United States. Al-Awlaki’s career also demonstrates the early ineptness of post-9/11 counterterrorism operations. The Pentagon even invited him to come over and give a presentation.
After he fled to Yemen, al-Awlaki declared open war on the United States. He served as part of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s “Foreign Operations Unit.” At least three attacks on the United States can be linked to their activities.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan—he of Fort Hood infamy—colluded with Anwar al-Awlaki.
The Christmas underwear bomber and the "ink cartridge bomb plot" also have links to Yemen.
While al-Awlaki appears, at last, to have met his end, the terrorsists’ unholy war against the U.S. continues. They didn’t call it quits with Bin Laden’s death and they won’t stop now just because al-Awlaki’s dead.
The worst step the U.S. could take is to give Al Qaeda a breather—anywhere in the world—thereby giving the organization the opportunity to reconstitute.
Terrorist attacks organized by “networks” on average kill many more people per capita than “lone-wolfs” and “self-radicalized” violent extremists. Washington, of course, must continue to keep an eye out for schemes like the recently foiled 41st plot to kill Americans.
But the number one target of U.S. strategy has to be the elimination of Islamist terror networks that are out to get us.
A resurgent Al Qaeda could not only be as big a danger as it was before 9/11, it could draw on the capacity of other groups that are still out there and hard at work killing Americans—like the Haqqani network.
Press coverage of the recent revelations that the Haqqanis were behind attacks on Americans in Afghanistan has focused mainly on the network’s links to Pakistani Intelligence. Equally alarming is the revelation that the Haqqanis have broken bread with Al Qaeda.
Let us not forget that Al Qaeda exists primarily not to conduct terrorist attacks itself, but to inspire a global Islamist insurgency. No effort should be spared to diminish, denounce, and degrade the legitimacy of their evil cause. This is no time to give the appearance of cutting and running in Afghanistan. President Obama needs to rethink his arbitrary “drawdown timeline” pronto...
Just as it’s wrong to think that the death of any one Al Qaeda leader marks the beginning of the end of conflict, so backing off of winning this war is the wrong thing to do. The notion that the U.S. can give up “feet on the ground” and win this war through drone strikes alone is dead wrong. Whack one Islamist mole like al-Awlaki and another of his ilk will pop up.
Unfortunately, even as the administration continues to rack up high profile “tactical” wins, it seems poised to adopt a strategy that could well lose the war.
James Jay Carafano is director of The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.
James Jay Carafano is vice president of foreign and defense policy studies The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @JJCarafano.