The radical Islamist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was killed in north Yemen today. Awlaki served as a key conduit for foreign fighters into Yemen and is believed to have directed several recent attacks against the United States. The death of the Yemeni-American militant will likely degrade AQAP’s ability to recruit foreign fighters and to conduct attacks against America in the near term. However, over the long term killing Awlaki will probably not reduce AQAP’s capabilities significantly.
Awlaki helped the leadership extend the organization’s reach beyond Yemen, but was not essential to its ability to hold and expand its territory in Yemen or, ultimately, to wage war against the West. The AQAP leadership in Yemen remains intact: the group’s leader Nasser al-Wahayshi, deputy leader Said al-Shihri, military commander Qasim al-Raymi, operative Fahd al-Quso, and bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri are alive and well. The leadership will continue to operate, even with the loss of Awlaki. After all, much of the top leadership of al Qaeda in Yemen was killed in the years following the September 11 attacks and new leaders stepped in to fill the vacancies.
Please read the full text at the Critical Threats Project.