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Are Obama's drone strikes decapitating al Qaeda?
The secretive aerial campaign is facing scathing criticism from human-rights activists and Pakistani officials, but it may well be helping in the war on terror
 
Pakistani protesters burn representations of U.S. and NATO flags: The latest strike killed al Qaeda's second-in-command.
Pakistani protesters burn representations of U.S. and NATO flags: The latest strike killed al Qaeda's second-in-command.
AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer

President Obama's increasing use of covert airstrikes against suspected terrorist leaders isn't doing wonders for Washington's relationship with Pakistan... but it appears to be doing some serious damage to al Qaeda. The drone attack that killed the terrorist network's second-in-command Abu Yahya al-Libi this week was only the latest in a string of attacks against suspected terrorist leaders in Pakistan's tribal areas along the Afghan border, as well as in Yemen and Somalia. Last year, similar airstrikes killed the previous al Qaeda No. 2 leader in Pakistan, as well as the leader of the organization's Yemen affiliate. Is there really a chance that the controversial drone campaign could effectively eliminate the top layer of al Qaeda's leadership?

Yes. The drones are stripping terrorists of their leaders: The success of the attack on Libi "considerably weakens Islamabad's case against drone strikes," says Yashwant Raj at India's Hindustan Times. Libi, a respected religious leader, "is said to have made al Qaeda 'cool' through the use of social media," and he'll be hard to replace. But it's the loss of one deputy after another that "will make it difficult for post-bin Laden leadership" to maintain control of the rank-and-file.
"Al-Libi dead, Pak case against drones weakens"

No. Al Qaeda will find a way to carry on: "The global jihadist movement is remarkably resilient, despite its loss of leaders," says Frank Gardner at BBC News. It lost its training camps when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and simply hopped over the border into Pakistan. Al Qaeda has always found new leaders to replace the ones taken out by drones. Wherever there is "weak and corrupt governance," and deep resentment against the U.S. and Israel, terrorists have endless pools of recruits.
"Can al Qaeda survive the drone strikes?"

If anything, drones make matters worse: Don't let the drone campaign's successes fool you, says the United Arab Emirates' Khaleej Times in an editorial. This increasingly aggressive kind of cowboy gun-slinging is fraying Washington's ties with the Pakistani government, an ally it needs to win this war. Continuing to send drones to fire into civilian areas will only "trigger a rise in the level of extremism" al Qaeda feeds on, and make it easier for terrorists to find refuge among an increasingly disgusted population.
"Hunting down al Qaeda"

 

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