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January 30, 2008

Osama, Ayman, Or Joe Camel?

Which target got a million-dollar missile in the rear yesterday? ABC News reports that Pakistani officials believe they killed someone high up the al-Qaeda food chain with a missile strike yesterday, but they're not saying who it might be. Hopes have been raised in the past, but usually have wound up either killing lower-level figures or, as George Bush famously noted, a camel and a ten-dollar tent:

Pakistani intelligence sources say they believe a "high-value" al Qaeda target was killed in a missile strike yesterday in the country's tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said there was no indication that the target was Osama bin Laden or his deputy Ayman al Zawahri, but one senior official told the strike was aimed at one particular figure.

"We don't know whether we got him yet, we are sorting through it," the official said, indicating the intended target was a top leader of the terror group.

The Pakistanis may also be aiming at Baitullah Mehsud, a particular thorn in their side. He reportedly masterminded the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and may have sent the ill-fated mission to Europe for the transportation system attacks, which got foiled by Western intelligence services. The capture of those men could have given the Pakistanis a good idea where to find Mehsud.

Last week, reports emerged that Osama bin Laden had begun writing personal notes to Taliban and AQ leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those communications could have tipped off the coalition against AQ as well. Ayman al-Zawahiri's more frequent communiques to the West could also have left him vulnerable. We know who it wasn't; despite the outrage Adam Gadahn generates among Americans, the traitor isn't considered a high-value target by anyone other than Adam Gadahn.

We've been through these reports before. Most of the time, they turn out to be nothing. We'll hope that they took out a top level AQ or Taliban leader, but we'll wait for confirmation before celebrating.


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