Zawahiri eulogizes Abu Yahya al Libi

Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri has issued a martyrdom statement confirming that Abu Yahya al Libi, a top leader and senior religious figure and ideologue, has been killed by the US. Abu Yahya, a longtime al Qaeda leader from Libya, was killed in a US drone strike in Mir Ali in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan on June 4.

Following the strike, US officials were certain he was killed, but al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab, muddied the waters when it released two tapes of Abu Yahya later in June. The announcements accompanying the two tapes indicated that he was alive [see here, here, and here]. The tapes were released close enough to his death that it is likely, however, that As Sahab already had the statements and the tapes in the distribution pipeline. (It is also possible that As Sahab was not made aware of his death until a later date, or Abu Yahya was first wounded in the strike and died later of his injuries, or As Sahab intentionally tried to throw off US intelligence.)

In Zawahiri’s announcement of Abu Yahya’s death, he claims that the martyrdom of its leaders and fighters will only inspire more Muslims to wage jihad. Zawahiri also drives home the theme that al Qaeda is not simply a group of leaders and fighters, but also “a message to the Islamic Ummah.” Below are excerpts from Zawahiri’s statement, from the SITE Intelligence Group:

With the martyrdom of Sheikh Abu Yahya, may Allah have mercy on him, people will flock even more to his writings and call, Allah willing. Martyrdom revives the words, as the two martyrs said, as we think of them, Sayyid Qutb and Abdullah Azzam, may Allah have mercy on them, and this is what America is doing – America, which considers the mujahideen and al-Qaeda to be its primary enemies. However, it is forgetting that al-Qaeda, in truth, is a message to the Islamic Ummah to do jihad, to resist and stand up to the external Zio-Crusader oppression and the domestic corruption. The martyrdom of the mujahideen of al-Qaeda and its commanders gives credibility and acceptance to its message. Every time our blood flows for our belief, our words come alive in our Ummah. Every time martyrs fall, then the call of jihad gets new life. And every time the spirit of jihad spreads, the end nears for the arrogance and mightiness of the evil empire, America.

America realizes full well that the material power of al-Qaeda cannot be compared to the material force of the Zionist alliance, but it understands that the message of the mujahideen in general and al-Qaeda in particular is a warning to its end and defeat, because it is the message of jihad and martyrdom, and refusal of humiliation and submission, and this message has spread amongst our Muslim Ummah, which received it with acceptance and responded to it.

Zawahiri continues with this line of thought while critiquing the Obama administration’s kill-focused counterterrorism campaign:

This liar [Obama] is trying to deceive the Americans that he will achieve victory against al-Qaeda through killing this person or that person, and escapes from the truth that he was defeated in Iraq, he is being defeated in Afghanistan, he was defeated in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. He is running from the fact that al-Qaeda has achieved its real mission, which is to incite the Ummah, and this is the warning for America’s defeat, Allah willing.

Let us assume that this poor man had killed 10 or 20 or 100 or a 1,000 from al-Qaeda. Will that prevent the defeat of America? Not only that, but let us assume that he killed all the mujahideen of al-Qaeda. Will that make him avoid defeat? Will that make Muslims love or hate him? Will that make them sympathize with him or take him as an enemy, or submit to him or challenge him? This poor man is a loser and is leading a losing nation in a losing battle. The Americans killed nearly five million Vietnamese. Did that protect them from defeat? The Americans are too arrogant to admit facts, but facts will force them to admit them.

To summarize, Zawahiri is telling us that we do not have a coherent strategy to defeat al Qaeda’s ideological message.

While I am loath to agree with Zawahiri on the US’s lack of strategy for dealing with jihadist ideology and to quote myself, I am going to point you back to this interview on the death of Abu Yahya with The New York Times, from June:

Some independent experts, however, were more cautious. “Killing the top leadership harms Al Qaeda, but it won’t defeat them,” said Bill Roggio of the Web site Long War Journal, which tracks drone strikes in the tribal belt, among other topics. “There are people who will step up to fill the void. Al Qaeda has a far deeper bench than the administration gives it credit for.”

Mr. Roggio said that while drone strikes offered an attractive short-term tactic against Qaeda militants, they did not present a complete strategy. “Until we tackle Al Qaeda’s ideology, state support and ability to exploit ungoverned space in countries like Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, you’re not going to defeat the organization,” he said.

For more on this subject, see Threat Matrix report, On drones and their ability to defeat al Qaeda.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.



  • Sherifa Zuhur says:

    good article, Bill. Interested in your thoughts on Mohammad al-Zawahiri’s truce proposal.

  • RT says:

    I just love the never ending criticism that Bill Rogio puts out there. Cant say Ive ever seen any actual strategy behind those lofty criticisms.
    End State support. How?
    Police Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen. How?
    I mean last time I looked these are countries, with borders.

  • Paul D says:

    AlQ is supported openly by Iran Govt,Pakistani Army and public,Eygptian MB/Salafist and Saudi Wahabbis

  • Tony Buzan says:

    You are correct.
    We are in a war of ideas.
    THEREFORE, we MUST stop demanding that the banking systems we install in the nations we invade (such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya) be charge interest on loans, in violation of even MODERATE Islam.
    Currently we demand and insist at gunpoint that the banking systems we impose on Islamic nations must charge interest on their loans.
    Stopping this provocative and stupid approach will help win this ideological war at a VERY minimal cost.
    Wise up US. STOP being outsmarted!

  • Tony Buzan says:

    You are correct.
    We are in a war of ideas.
    THEREFORE, we MUST stop demanding that the banking systems we install in the nations we invade (such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya) charge interest on loans they make, in violation of even MODERATE Islam.
    Currently we demand and insist at gunpoint that the banking systems we impose on these Islamic nations must charge interest on their loans.
    Stopping this provocative and stupid approach will help win this ideological war against al Qaeda at a VERY minimal cost.
    Wise up US. STOP being outsmarted!
    Stop letting Goldman Sachs set the terms of the debate!

  • Bill Roggio says:

    RT, unfortunately I don’t have much time to discuss this given the day’s events. But I often do discuss this, in interviews, on panels, and such.
    First, before we do anything, we need to honestly look at the problem. I don’t believe we are. Instead we have a range of officials telling us the Arab Spring has led to the defeat of al Qaeda, there are only two top leaders of AQ left, and the Taliban’s momentum is broken. If you can’t recognize the problem, how can you craft a policy to deal with it?
    I never said we should police Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia, so don’t put words into my mouth.
    As far as state sponsors of terrorism go, I’d treat them like state sponsors of terrorism.
    Ungoverned spaces is a tough one no doubt. We should delude ourselves into thinking drones are a strategy when they are merely a tactic.
    The US has essentially adopted a kill-focused CT strategy. Do you think that works? Ask the Israelis if it worked for them.

  • Stephanie says:

    I, also, am loath to agree with Ayman al-Zawahiri, but I don’t like the “kill-your-way-to-victory” strategy either. It only helps al Qaida win the propoganda war and it’s not a long term solution.

  • jester H says:

    Bill, -great article.
    I don’t we had a strategy in Iraq other than run-n-gun. Nothing. And now with AFG winding down, we too are in the same problem set.
    The West (specifcally US) will never embrace the Muslim way, nor even try to comprehend it.
    Sun Tzu said “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.’
    I don’t think we as Americans embrace either in both of our recent wars.

  • Charles says:

    The way to obtain strategic victory in the middle east is to first become energy independent. And then produce enough oil/gas to collapse the cost of oil–just like has been done with natural gas.

    (Romney’s going for North American energy independence rather than American independence. This is a mistake. The US does not need Canadian or Mexican oil or gas products. Let them export.)

    The way to gain oil independence and then collapse the cost of oil is to exploit the oil shale in the green river formation in south western wyoming and north western colorado. Its almost all under federal lands.

    There have been three studies so far presented to the US congressional energy subcommittee which have said the cost of extraction would be 20-30 dollars a barrel. That compares with 40-60 dollars a barrel for fracking oil.

    Flood the world with oil produced at 20-30 dollars a barrel and the price of oil goes down to 30-40 dollars a barrel. Oil at these prices will put a serious hurt on OPEC. At this price opec cannot afford to fund the madrasses they have set up all over the middle east–especially in Pakistan.

    There’s more oil locked up in the green river formation than in all the rest of the world combined.

    Nothing will happen under the Obama administration on this score. But under a Romney administration, the first thing to do would be to get rid of the federal impediments to exploiting the oil shale in the green river formation. The second thing to do would be to disallow federal impediments to portable nuclear reactors to provide electricity for insitu mining. Federal regulatory exemptions to nuclear regulatory policies are currently in place for US military bases. So the US army is currently moving ahead with plans to get portable nuclear reactors onto army bases in five years or so. The idea is to get the military off the grid–which is considered to be increasing dangerous and unstable.

    On June 3, 2011, Rand’s James T. Bartis appeared in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power. “At crude oil prices of $100 per barrel, the value of the oil that might be recovered from federally owned land is over $60 trillion,” Bartis said in written testimony. “The public wealth embedded in our oil shale lands is staggering.”

    Considering most of the Green River Formation sits on federal lands and Federal Debt is 15 trillion, the oil mined in-situ from the Green River Basin could well pay some bills in an environmentally friendly way. Even if the surplus oil drives oil prices down to 30 dollars a barrel–that would still leave the federal government with 18 trillion dollars–just enough to pay off the national debt. However, the collapse of energy prices would cause an explosion of national and international wealth.

    This would increase government revenues—and restore the financial design margins the USA enjoyed 40 years ago—before the first arab oil embargo of 1973.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    I like a lot of the ideas being floated around here by Tony and Charles. Of course, it’s a million miles away from the bigwigs in DC from even CONSIDERING them as viable solutions to our problems, but we need to understand that we need to use our brains to win this Long War. I think it’s obvious by now that when it comes to offensive warfare, nothing short of a nuclear bomb is going to physically eliminate the radical enemies of the West in it’s entirety. Therefore, we must think outside the crate in strategic ways to outsmart the enemy.
    We’re Western Civilization, god dammit. The best civilization that ever existed and probably ever WILL exist before we start building space colonies. It’s high time we start using our resources and intelligence to outsmart an enemy that may be resilient, but really isn’t that smart to begin with.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram