The Obama Administration’s kill list, a secret document which lists an array of people to be killed at the first opportunity, is the source of a lot of speculation, and who is on the list is not a matter of public record.
But the list’s existence is no secret anymore, nor is the ambition of many in the administration to see it greatly expanded, with designs on setting the goal of killing a number of “Islamist militants” across Northern Africa and then creating the US military and/or CIA infrastructure to start getting those killings done.
The man to get this escalation done is Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the Algerian militant behind last month’s hostage siege at a BP gas plant along the Libyan border. His addition would set a precedent that would mean a precipitous increase in US ambitions across northern Africa.
Belmokhtar is not believed to be on the list yet because there’s simply no one to kill him. The CIA’s drone campaign is restricted to Yemen and Pakistan, and the Pentagon isn’t occupying Algeria.
This means getting him on the list, on the surface something most officials will feel is non-controversial, will mean putting something in Northern Africa to kill him. A drone base for the CIA is a possibility, and would need to include spies to track him down. A special forces invasion is another possibility, and a combination thereof might also happen.
But much as the death of Osama bin Laden didn’t end the strikes in Pakistan, and much as the death of US citizen Anwar Awlaki didn’t end the campaign against Yemen, the creation of the anti-Belmokhtar front in the global war on terror means creating a protracted assassination campaign in and around Algeria, one that will quickly expand well beyond the immediate target.
While most of the victims of the assassination campaign die anonymously and are forever labeled “suspects,” the reality is that once a new base of operations for killing people is set up, they never seem to have a shortage of potential targets, and adding a single man to the “kill list” in a new theater of operations is really setting the stage for killing hundreds, if not thousands, over the years to come.