Most of the time when US officials assassinate al-Qaeda members they express concerns that their followers are going to lionize them as martyrs to the cause and larger than life figures to be emulated. With popular cleric and putative al-Qaeda member Anwar Awlaki, the US seems to be the one looking to promote him.
Having killed him earlier this morning in a drone strike, officials spent the rest of the day not only bragging about his killing, but hyping his role in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), even inventing the title “chief of external operations” for him after his death.
They are now attempting to credit Awlaki for a myriad of plots real and imagined, and while they’ve yet to show the public evidence that he was even a member of AQAP, they keep adding new unproven allegations against him to the list.
In the end, the Obama Administration’s distaste for Awlaki was primarily what he did in public, which was to speak critically of US foreign policy, not any private double-life they hope the American public will believe he was secretly leading. Despite his posthumous promotion they also say it probably will have no real effect on AQAP, since he “wasn’t among the top military commanders.”