US stops adding al Qaeda leaders to ‘kill list’

If you want to ‘end the war’ against al Qaeda, one good way would be to declare that all of the global terror group’s leaders are dead, and declare victory. And this seems to be exactly what the Obama administration is doing. And pretty much doing it at the behest of our ‘friends’ in Pakistan. The same Pakistani friends who insisted for 10 years that Osama bin Laden wasn’t in Pakistan, until he was killed by US SEALs in a raid just outside Pakistan’s version of West Point.

Read this report at The Wall Street Journal. Here is an excerpt, emphasis is mine:

The CIA has long added new targets to a longer “kill list” on a rolling basis as old targets are hit.

Now, U.S. officials say, the “kill list” is not self-replenishing, a change long sought by Islamabad. “By taking one off, we’re not automatically putting one on,” a senior U.S. official said. As a result, the number of targets on the list are decreasing as the CIA’s drones focus on a more limited number of high-level targets that “will enable us to conclude the program,” the official said.

To better understand the Obama administration’s view on al Qaeda, I urge you to read our exchanges with State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf on the nature of al Qaeda from two weeks ago. Start here. Then read Ms. Harf’s response. And then read our rebuttal.

The decision to define al Qaeda down to irrelevancy seems to be part of the administration’s policy of declaring victory and going home. We’ve seen this happen in Iraq (with disastrous consequences), and it is currently happening in Afghanistan.

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

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  • Birbal Dhar says:

    What a blunder this would be if the US stops drone attacks in Pakistan. The reason why this current drone strategy is not working properly in Pakistan, is because it’s only limited to the Waziristan region. We know that Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other islamic terrorists have free reign in other parts of Pakistan to operate, under the noses of the Pakistani military. If the drone attacks are expanded to all parts of Pakistan, this would give a message to the Pakistani government that you will get hurt more if you don’t stop training islamic terrorists.

  • Scott P. says:

    Wow. The sad thing is that this really isn’t all that surprising is it?

  • EDDIED. says:

    Hopefully soon our bank(tax-payers) will stop sending them a check too

  • Comrade J says:

    The strategy is akin to Obama’s war on unemployment. Redefine the unemployment and ta-da – Victory!
    Now is this also why Obama’s admin is now going to allow Islamic terrorists in the country who are only “partially” Al-Qaeda?

  • LPD-RI says:

    What can you say? This administration does not care about victory, our troops, or our safety.
    The only thing –the ONLY thing– they are interested in is votes in the next elections. That’s Chicago politics for ya.
    Someday (hopefully not after another 9/11, but probably), the American people will wake up and see these politicians for what they are. Until then, it’s playing politics with our national security.

  • Caleb says:

    My initial thoughts are that this appears like another move to appease the Pakistanis as they undergo “peace talks” with the TTP. Do we have any confirmation of when they stopped adding new targets to the list?
    But as I thought further, I developed some more questions regarding this and your exchanges with Ms. Harf. I don’t expect answers, but I still wish to throw these out there.
    1. What will be the repercussions of not adding new targets to the list?
    1a. Will AQSL rebound? Will their “syndicate” also begin to flourish again? Will this cut down on fear of being killed among AQSL? If so, how will that affect global operations for the group?
    2. What does Pakistan plan to do now? The same, so long as they don’t attack the state? Are these so-called “peace talks” even legitimate? What does this mean for Pakistan vying for power and influence in Afghanistan?
    3. Speaking of Afghanistan, what does this mean for their security? What does this mean for their security assuming we go with the “Zero-Option”? I would assume this would end up hurting Afghan’s security and quite possibility other country’s (I.e the West) in the long run.
    4. What are the consequences of prematurely ending the war on AQ and their network? What good does it do to only identify the network as just the “core” group and their formal affiliates? Doesnt that potentially carry dire consequences for regional stability and security in various parts of the ME and Africa? Moreoever, what are consequences in regards to our own national security?
    As a student, I couldn’t appreciate your reporting more. That being said, it doesn’t make sense to me to downplay the potency and resiliency of the AQ-network (or other global terrorist organizations like Hezbollah). I also don’t agree that drones are the answer to all our problems nor are they an actually strategy, but it seems like a tactical error to not seek out and target the senior leaders in some fashion.
    The reporting here as clearly made out that AQSL has operational guidance over the various entities in their network (how much, though, seems to be the real question). This information is what led me to the first set of questions. What does not targeting AQSL do for the other parts of the network and so on and so forth.
    I could ramble all day, but I think I’ll leave it at that.

  • Bob says:

    Disastrous decision. I know I’m singing to the choir here, but who cares if the drone war is unpopular? Its the President’s job to protect this country. Al-Qaeda hasn’t quit, they have no intention of quitting, and have every intention attempting another 9/11. The embarrassing part is al-Qaeda is laughing at us right now. They see this pull back as our weakness – something bin Laden predicted years ago. Only an ignorant fool would think that pulling out of Afghanistan and ending the drone campaign means the end of the war. The only we need to do is to pound this guys, and keep pounding them, and pound them some more until they are so broke that the only remnants left are underground, out of reach of drones and military action.

  • blert says:

    Wasn’t this type of thinking a plot element in “Clear and Present Danger”?
    At a deeper level, the administration wants to get our army out of the atomic blast range of Iran.
    I suspect that’s the driving force.

  • Eric says:

    In 12 years of combat operations in Afghanistan, we reduced the enemy down as far as our rules of engagement allowed us to do. Without the political will of the American people to fight a war of extermination using the most savage methods available to us, the Taliban and Al Qaeda will survive. If we declare the means of achieving victory off-limits, there can’t be much point in keeping our forces in there. Time to disengage. We must declare victory and leave. Curtailing the drone program is a necessary step in setting the right diplomatic tone for our exit strategy.
    Yes, as LWJ has duly reported, the White House, and the State Dept, and even the official reporting out of ISAF GHQ are cooperating with the narrative of a decimated enemy and a diminishing target picture, and this is PATENTLY FALSE. But the truth is not cooperating with the president’s narrative, and yet it is time to withdraw. It is time to let the Afghans fight their own war in their own way.
    We cannot reasonably expect the Afghan government and security forces to perform well enough to defeat the Taliban. Afghanistan is a land where open society is based on buying off opponents. Foreign assistance is simply stolen.
    That sad state of affairs will persist there for another 100 years or more, regardless of sincere transnational efforts to improve it.
    We may as well focus on improving modern civilization elsewhere while we wait for another spectacular attack against the west to re-ignite public will to go after Al Qaeda again in earnest. That is who and what we are as a people, and we have tired of the fight, as our enemies predicted. Unless our public is resolved to do what is necessary to exterminate the enemy, they will persist in their efforts to damage and ultimately destroy modern civilization.
    This move to curtail drone tasking is not the end of the drone program. It is merely an abatement that plays to the diplomatic objectives of disengagement in the near term.
    Ultimately, if we are going to fight the war in a manner that allows the enemy to survive and thrive, it makes more sense to end it and come home. We will let our enemies and our frenemies decide the next move. As retarded as that sounds.

  • Knighthawk says:

    “Wow. The sad thing is that this really isn’t all that surprising is it?”

    Well, I certainly did a double take, but you’re right I shouldn’t have been surprised. I suppose this suggests the zero option is looking more likely.

  • thefatefullightning says:

    “This will enable us to conclude the program…” Is it the purpose then to “end the program” or is it to terminate the threat of terrorist acts against the free world?

  • Bungo says:

    I find this part (winding down the drone campaign in Pakistan) a very risky move for the administration considering they still have 2 years to go in this term. A LOT of bad things can happen in the next 2 years. If it does happen, they’ll have to own it.

  • Eric says:

    Maybe Obama’s plan for our future is less out of touch with reality than we take it for. Could be they view this Long War as far from over, as we all know it is. They want a reset. The USA will try to get out of Afghanistan to enter a state of peace, with no declared wars still openly engaged. It will buy us out of GTMO. Our political machines in Washington cannot concede on opposing points, as true friends would always do for one another, and get through the process, on a federal level, of closing down the GTMO facility by means of Capitol Hill. We just can’t get that one done through argument. So Obama envisions a future for us with no international prisons. And declaring peace creates the legal imperative to shut GTMO. Too bad it gives the fanatical enemy a reprieve. But looking down the hall of the next several decades, we can expect we are not done pursuing them for heinous acts yet to be conceived. The practice of holding them without trial for over a decade has the rest of the free world justifiably pissed off at us. We as a nation need GTMO ended. Those seriously in doubt could consider why it could not be sited on US soil when they opened the detention facility in the first place. Our CIC may calculate that we can turn our back on our enemies for just long enough to officially end the wartime components of the patriot act. Re-engagement with the enemy will be directed by their next course of action, and in what theater.
    Now while it makes me wanna puke that we need to bring our rationale before the UN to get a win in the court of public opinion before resuming our work exterminating terrorism, I own up to the need to do things before the law and not above it, if we are going to see the better part of a century in future action along this front. We just about did this to ourselves by electing a bucks before colleagues congress. And we will keep on paying.
    Getting out is getting ready to fight a new kind of war. We keep evolving.

  • Doug says:

    Lets face some realities. Karzai won’t sign a long term security deal that protects US forces from Afghan prosecution. Absent that guarantee, we can’t stay on. Do you guys disagree? you want to leave our troops at the will of some tribal Sharia court??? Obama has no choice.
    Second, the Pacs elected Nawaz Sharif. He is clearly not our friend, but that was the Pacs call. If they choose to live under another decade under extremist terror, then it’s their bed let them sleep in it. Good riddance! And if their nukes are ever jeopardized, we (and India) will be back, with a lot more than Preds and Hellfires.
    Thirdly, absent Pac or Afghan airstrips, we can’t fly Preds over either. The regional politics won’t allow the other Stans to base our aircraft for hostile strikes on Pac or Afghan, since they would be committing acts of war by doing so. And the last thing we need is to stir up the Muslim street in the relatively stable Stans. That would be idiotic!!!
    That said, I suspect we will figure out a way to maintain capcity in the region, just at a lower tempo and profile.
    Finally, the actual base of threats to US has long moved to the Sahel. As we’ve seen in last year, AFRICOM is expanding its strike capacity and tempo. Demonstated fact, the bad guys who posess the ability to project terror transnationally reside there So quite rightly, that’s we’re Obama is going to move the kill zone.
    Please tell me were my analysis is wrong and what your regional AF/Pac plan would be, absent willing hosts?

  • don says:

    It’s magic: say or write the proper incantations and you can save the planet and stop the oceans from rising and falling. Hey, just have everyone put a win button on their lapel and presto, the war’s won!

  • blert says:

    Close Gitmo?
    Are you absolutely mad?
    Gitmo exists because it controls the critical deep route to the Panama Canal. THAT is its essential function.
    Its role can NOT be taken up by alternate assets.
    Your notion is like Britain giving up Gibraltar.
    Come to think of it, Gitmo IS the ‘Gibraltar’ of the Caribbean Sea.
    It’s also the shore base that’s up past its eyeballs in training the Atlantic Fleet. The emphasis is on training the submarine fleet — so many subs — so few task forces.

  • Eric says:

    My remarks were unclear, sorry. I am only suggesting this is an approach to closing the detention facilities at camp Delta, Echo, and Iguana which are sited in Gitmo. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is a key strategic asset, the US is never going to close the whole base.
    I personally do not agree with the moves to exit Afghanistan, close the prison camps, or to sit on the sidelines presently in Syria and Libya and Yemen, but I concede that the long-term strategy they are all a part of is the best way forward.
    Whatever we commit to doing about islamic extremism over the span of the coming century will be undermined by public trust issues which sap our political will to stay committed to the fight militarily. A far better thing it will be to fight under the aegis of cooperation on international law enforcement actions than under military mandates from the UN or NATO.
    We obviously need to expand the net to include financiers of terrorist activities, to include opium, cocaine, meth, smuggling, human trafficking, and sanctioned foreign banking, as well as ultra-conservative Wahhabists and Salafists. So many D-bags, so little time.

  • Buzz says:

    I think anyone who reads LWJ on a regular basis knows what Obama’s view on al qaeda and the taliban are,the same position The President has on al qaeda in Syria !! Nothing to see here. Add hamid crazy to the mix and Zero Option has to be our choice in afghanistan !!! But don’t rule out the Disposition Matrix,it may wane until the afghan elections are over,but is here to stay !!!!!


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