Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting Lonely At The Top





A drone operated by the Central Intelligence Agency killed al Qaeda’s second-ranking figure in the mountains of Pakistan earlier this month, American and Pakistani officials said on Saturday, further damaging a terror network that appears significantly weakened since the death of Osama bin Laden in May. 
Atiyah Abd al-Rahman

An American official said that a drone strike on Aug. 22 killed Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a Libyan who in the last year had taken over as al Qaeda’s top operational planner. Mr. Rahman was in frequent contact with Bin Laden in the months before the terror leader was killed on May 2 by a team of Navy Seals, intelligence officials have said.

American officials described Mr. Rahman’s death as particularly significant as compared with other high-ranking Qaeda operatives who have been killed, because he was one of a new generation of Qaeda leaders that the network hoped would assume greater control after Bin Laden’s death.

Thousands of electronic files recovered at Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, revealed that Bin Laden communicated frequently with Mr. Rahman. They also showed that Bin Laden relied on Mr. Rahman to get messages to other Qaeda leaders and to ensure that Bin Laden’s recorded communications were broadcast widely.

After Bin Laden was killed, Mr. Rahman became al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader under Ayman al-Zawahiri, who succeeded Bin Laden.

There were few details on Saturday about the strike that killed Mr. Rahman. In the months since Bin Laden’s death, the C.I.A. has maintained a steady barrage of drone missile strikes on mountainous redoubts in Pakistan, a bombing campaign that continues to strain America’s already turbulent relationship with Pakistan.

The C.I.A almost never consults Pakistani officials in advance of a drone strike, and a Pakistani government official said Saturday that the United States had told Pakistan’s government that Mr. Rahman had been the target of the strike only after the spy agency confirmed that he had been killed.

The drone strikes have been the Obama administration’s preferred means of hunting and killing operatives from al Qaeda and its affiliate groups. Over the last year the United States has expanded the drone war to Yemen and Somalia. 
Safe for American troops, Deadly for alQaeda leadership 


Some top American officials have said publicly that they believe al Qaeda is in its final death throes, though many intelligence analysts are less certain, saying that the network built by Bin Laden has repeatedly shown an ability to regenerate.

Yet even as al Qaeda affiliates in places like Yemen and North Africa continue to plot attacks against the West, most intelligence analysts believe that the remnants of al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan has been weakened considerably. Mr. Rahman’s death is another significant blow to the group.

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