This is good news on a couple of fronts. First, killing al-Qaeda's Number 2 leader is a victory in and of itself. But the fact that we got him in Pakistan shows that either we are thumbing our nose at the Pakistani government which has publicly told us to stop drone strikes on their territory; or we have resumed whatever limited cooperation we have had in the past with the military and ISI.
Either scenario is good news.
Wall Street Journal:
The militant considered to be the No. 2 leader of al Qaeda was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
Abu Yahya al-Libi was seen as al Qaeda's most versatile leader, and his death on Monday was the latest setback for a group that U.S. officials say is reeling from recent losses.
The operation that killed Mr. Libi also showed the U.S. has maintained its intelligence capacity in Pakistan amid tension with the Pakistani government and despite enhanced security measures that al Qaeda has taken in the wake of the raid that killed its leader, Osama bin Laden, a year ago.
The attack was the latest in a rapid succession of Central Intelligence Agency drone strikes in recent weeks, after attacks slowed in the wake of the accidental killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by U.S. helicopters at a post at the Afghan border in November. There have been 22 strikes reported so far this year, according to the New America Foundation, which tracks them.
Mr. Libi, a Libyan native who was believed to be in his 40s, was in charge of al Qaeda's operations at the highest levels and was the group's point man for maintaining connections with militant affiliates around the world, particularly in Yemen and Africa, U.S. officials said. He was one of the group's "most experienced and versatile leaders" who played "a critical role in the group's planning against the West," a U.S. official said.
Known as a popular, charismatic al Qaeda commander, Mr. Libi rose to prominence after he escaped from the U.S. detention center at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in July 2005. After his jailbreak, he earned a following through frequent writings on jihadi forums and appearances in al Qaeda videos.
American intelligence credits human assets on the ground in Pakistan for finding Libi. It is doubtfull that any CIA operative could have gotten that information. More likely, we relied on Pakistani intelligence to pinpoint Libi's location.
Drone strikes in Pakistan have picked up in recent weeks. Protests from Pakistan have been pretty much pro forma which should tell us that either we are cooperating again or they recognize us serving their interests by getting rid of al-Qaeda leaders.