Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Said al-Shihri

When I saw headlines yesterday saying that an al-Qaeda second-in-command had been killed, I assumed it was just another case of the occupant of that rather dangerous position, which, which before May 2011 was known as third-in-command of al-Qaeda, being killed.  That is, I had assumed we were talking about "al-Qaeda Central" in the AfPak theater rather than al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  I learned this morning it was the latter:
"Said al-Shihri, described as the second-in-command of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has been killed in an operation in southern Yemen, government officials say...
"Some reports say Yemeni troops were involved, others that it was an air strike, possibly a US drone attack...
"Yemen has previously announced it had killed al-Shihri and his death this time has not been confirmed."
Assuming it is confirmed, then this could be a move in weakening AQAP the same way the relentless drone campaign which began in late 2008 has thoroughly disrupted the networks constitution al-Qaeda Central.  At the same time, the biography of al-Shihri and some other AQAP leaders, who began with Osama bin Laden in South Asia, shows how the movement which attacked the United States on September 11 has metastasized into a broader global phenomenon, as was perhaps inevitable after the ensuing wars.  Would this have happened if the United States had not invaded Iraq?  Perhaps, as before there was the invasion there were the sanctions, and people forget how much opposition to those there was.

The Afghanistan campaign alone, however, itself fed narratives that the United States was at war with Islam, especially when so many in the region from Afghanistan to Morocco entertain the belief that bin Laden was framed.  This, to me, has always been the double tragedy of September 11: not only the event itself, but the armed conflicts, even the most justified, to which it gave rise.  Having to launch a military attack is its ow kind of defeat.

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