Anonymous Leak Claims Al Qaeda No. 2 Killed by US

Previous US claims of killing high level operatives have proven false, leading to skepticism

Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, has reportedly been killed in Pakistan, in what is being perceived as another great blow to al Qaeda.

The Libyan national who was the network’s former operational leader rose to Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 spot after the US killed Osama bin Laden in May. Rahman, believed to be in his mid-30s, was a close confidant of the al Qaeda leader.

Anonymous leaked information claims that he was killed on August 22, although the anonymous US official did not give details as to how he was killed. On that same day though, there was a reported drone strike in Waziristan, Pakistan.

The anonymous nature of the leak and the lack of details about the kill have led some to doubt whether this reports are accurate or meant to boost support for the war. In the past, US officials have both openly claimed and leaked misinformation about the assassinations of various high-level militants in the Pakistani tribal region, only to have it subsequently revealed that the individuals are alive and well.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that al Qaeda’s defeat was within reach if the US could mount a string of successful attacks on the group’s weakened leadership. “Now is the moment, following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them,” Panetta said, “because I do believe that if we continue this effort we can really cripple al Qaeda as a major threat.”

True or not, it has long been recognized that al Qaeda is an organization which quickly replaces its positions in cases of death. Noting the group’s supposed impending defeat should be taken with a grain of salt, especially since al Qaeda’s strategy to get the US bogged down in a costly quagmire in Afghanistan has gone according to plan.

If perception in to some extent reality, then this uncorroborated report won’t harm al Qaeda anymore than America has been harmed by their aggressive war postures in Muslim-majority countries, which have contributed to a rise in negative attitudes towards America throughout the Muslim world. That is another win for al Qaeda.

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Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.