Abu Yahya al-Libi, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command behind only Ayman al-Zawahri, was killed Monday by a targeted CIA drone strike in northern Pakistan, according to American officials. The fatal drone strike killed 15 Islamic militants along with al-Libi, who was responsible for al-Qaeda’s propaganda, appearing in 39 videos and using his background as an Islamic cleric to justify the terrorist group’s acts of jihad. Al-Libi had a 1 million dollar bounty on his head, and narrowly escaped death by drone strike more than once before meeting his end. The Taliban and the White House agree that al-Libi’s death is a major defeat for al-Qaeda.
The deputy leader’s demise, compounded by the death of Osama bin Laden and influential al-Qaeda imam Anwar al-Awlaki both last year, has left a void in al-Qaeda’s ranks; the organization now lacks a member with the religious education or credibility with the Arab World necessary to justify al-Qaeda’s jihadist actions — crucial to the success of the terror group. Some sources have indicated that Ayman al-Zawahri is the only remaining noteworthy al-Qaeda leader. But, if he attempts to fill the propaganda void left by al-Libi, he will be forced to come out of hiding and possibly expose himself to the line of fire.
Abu Yahya al-Libi (Photo: AFP/IntelCenter)
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry protested Monday’s drone strikes, claiming that it violated international law. The drone strikes program that the U.S. is employing in Pakistan to target al-Qaeda has severely strained the already damaged American-Pakistani relations. Pakistan views continued drone strikes as a violation of its national sovereignty, though the Obama administration contends that Pakistan’s harboring of terrorists constitutes a violation of American national sovereignty. Indeed, many in the United States are highly suspicious of Pakistan for its America-hating sentiment even as it is one of the biggest recipients of American tax dollars. On Monday, the same day as al-Libi’s death, four American diplomats were arrested at a checkpoint in tribal and lawless Peshawar after refusing to let Pakistani soldiers search their vehicles. Other diplomatic crises include the jailing of Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani Taliban’s bombing of American diplomatic vehicles soon after the bin Laden raid, and a controversial November 2011 U.S. airstrike on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that led to the closing of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.
The death of an influential al-Qaeda leader is certainly a major victory in the War on Terror — though al-Qaeda continues to make gains in Yemen and in the Sinai, where the group has now taken hold much to Israel’s discomfort. Pakistan’s reaction to drone strikes and the death of al-Libi should lead America to re-consider its aid package to, and alliance with, the beleaguered south Asian nation. While al-Libi’s death merits celebration, America’s war against terrorists seeking to destroy it is long from over, as other radical Islamist cells are undoubtedly waiting, ready to rush in and fill the void left by a weakened al-Qaeda.