U.S. and Pakistani officials announced over the weekend that a CIA drone killed al Qaeda second-in-command Atiyah Abd al-Rahman in the mountainous frontier region of Pakistan on Aug. 22. Rahman, a Libyan, represented a new generation of al Qaeda leaders, and had become the network's top operations planner over the past year. He was in frequent contact with Osama bin Laden, and was promoted to No. 2 after bin Laden's death. Is this a major blow to an already weakened al Qaeda, or just another obscure death in an organization that goes "through No. 2's quicker than Dr. Evil?"
Rahman's death is a huge deal: This may seem like "just another in the revolving-door fatalities among al Qaeda's operations chiefs," says David Ignatius in The Washington Post. But it's much bigger: Rahman was bin Laden's conduit to al Qaeda. He was more important to the network than the new No. 1, the "divisive" and unpopular Ayman al-Zawahiri. Rahman's death is "a body blow" against the terrorist group, and moves al Qaeda's top leadership a big step "closer to extinction."
"A body blow against al Qaeda"
Let's not oversell this killing: Good riddance to a bad apple, says Rick Moran in American Thinker. But any pronouncements that al Qaeda is "dead — or near dead" — are probably more about politics than reality. A decade of attacks has surely weakened al Qaeda, but its terrorist foot soldiers aren't going away. "As long as they are able to function in the inaccessible mountains of Pakistan, they will be a threat" — whether President Obama's campaign likes it or not.
"al-Qaeda's #2 killed in Pakistan according to US official"
We need to keep hunting: Non-political counterterrorism experts do say that Rahman's death "will damage [al Qaeda] as much as losing Bin Laden did," says Allahpundit at Hot Air. But a big win could become a huge one if whatever intelligence helped us to find Rahman lets us nab al Qaeda's No. 1 Zawahiri, too. "If we got a hot tip on where to find Rahman, the tipster might very well have a hot tip on where to find the new top dog, too. Here's hoping."
"Big: al Qaeda's new number two killed in Pakistan"