Got Another One

The strike along the Afghan-Pakistan border targeting al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri appears to have killed al-Qaeda’s chief bomb-maker and WMD expert Abu Khabab al-Masri. Al-Masri was the one responsible for the tapes of chemical weapons tests on dogs found at an al-Qaeda complex at Derunta, Afghanistan.

Al-Masri is a significant figure in al-Qaeda, as he was the one who trained shoe bomber Richard Reid, Zacarias Moussaoui, and other al-Qaeda operatives in the art of explosives. The death of al-Masri means that one of the terror group’s key figures is now permanently out of commission. It is also possible that Zawahiri was at the dinner – four bodies were hastily dragged from the rubble and sent towards the Afghan border so that they couldn’t be identified. We haven’t heard from al-Zawahiri since the attack. While there’s not yet any evidence that he was killed, it is within the limits of possibility.

The leadership of al-Qaeda has been more than decimated by the actions taken since September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden has not been heard from for months. Ayman al-Zawahiri delivered his traditional Eid al-Adha message for the first time this year. US Predator drones continue to target and kill high-ranking members of al-Qaeda.

In terms of operational capabilities, the al-Qaeda that planned and executed 9/11 is no more. Their financial, logistical, and organizational supports have been removed, meaning that groups like Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq have taken over from al-Qaeda proper as the main agent of al-Qaeda terrorism.

This doesn’t mean that al-Qaeda doesn’t pose a threat – quite the opposite. What it does mean is that their capabilities are diminished. It took years and $500,000 to pull off the 9/11 attacks, and attack which took the support of an entire network – that network is no longer functioning. We can’t merely assume that al-Qaeda is disrupted enough to be unable to launch another mass-casualty attack, but it is a strong likelihood.

The biggest threat continues to be an attack with WMDs, especially biological agents. 9/11 killed 3,000 – an attack with weaponized anthrax or smallpox could easily beat that by an order of magnitude – not only in direct casualties but secondary and tertiary casualties caused by the strain on our already overtaxed healthcare system. A nuclear weapon could vaporize an entire city.

Killing al-Qaeda’s chief WMD expert will degrade their capabilities in making chemical agents, but our ultimate goal must be to end the systems of support that keep al-Qaeda alive. As more and more Muslims see the true face of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Jordan as al-Zarqawi continues to slaughter his coreligionists with heartless abandon, it has exposed the true thuggish nature of al-Qaeda. And as the Iraqi people build a more stable democracy, others in the region are demanding the same rights for themselves.

Al-Qaeda flourishes in the disconnect between many in the Muslim world and the autocratic governments they live under. Kill a member of al-Qaeda and you degrade their operational capability. End that autocracy and you end the organization itself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.