U.S. Central Command has confirmed that a U.S. airstrike has killed a top leader of Al Qaeda.
In a statement Thursday, the U.S. military confirmed that an airstrike carried out in Yemen had killed Abu Khattab al Awlaqi, removing a significant threat in the war on terror. In addition to the death of Al Awlaqi, two close associates were also killed.
The strikes were part of a series of more than 80 airstrikes carried out by the U.S. in Yemen since Trump was sworn into office. Considering the previous year only had 38 strikes carried out, it represents a huge step forward by the U.S. under Trump’s presidency in its effort to eliminate terrorists in the area.
Abu Khattab al Awlaqi was considered, “a trusted and experienced terrorist leader from AQAP’s ranks,” according to U.S. Central Command. Awlaqi held a stronghold in Shabwah Governorate that gave him significant access to the other leaders and considerable influence on Al-Qaeda as a whole. U.S. Central Command goes on to say he was fueling much of the instability in South Yemen and was central in plans that led to attacks on civilians in the area.
Though the U.S. has been focused on ISIS in recent times, Al-Qaeda has remained a force to be dealt with. Their effectiveness as an organization lies in their ability to inspire and train members within the U.S. to commit a number of atrocities. One previous example was when a Nigerian student claimed to be allied with Al-Qaeda attempted to blow up a plane heading to Detroit with explosives in 2009. A more disastrous event was when Nidal Malik Hasan — a psychiatrist working at the Fort Hood U.S. military post in Texas — killed 13 people in a terrible rampage at the base. Both individuals were said to either be in contact with Al-Qaeda members or have received training from its leaders.
Part of the reason Al-Qaeda has been out of the news is that the war with them has been raging for over 20 years — since Osama Bin Laden declared war in 1996. The long war has dwindled their numbers and, unfortunately, American interest in pursuing the war. Another reason is that the rise of ISIS has given them a source of competition when it comes to recruiting new members.
This was the result of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declaring as the caliphate leader, a role Al- Queda had claimed at the time. The war between the two organizations led to ISIS taking many of Al-Queda’s numbers and resources as they rose to power. It even led to several skirmishes between the two terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.
Since the death of Osama Bin Laden and the rise of ISIS, the Al-Qaeda organization as a whole has been in decline. With ISIS losing ground in the wake of U.S.-led coalition attacks, Al-Qaeda hopes to regain some of its power.
Hopefully the death of Abu Khattab Al Awlaqi sets them back enough to make them rethink their efforts. If nothing else, this is more proof that the United States is no longer leading from behind — we’re taking the fight straight to the enemy.