Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Anwar al-Awlaki is a Significant Target

Gregory Johnsen's New York Times article on November 19th regarding the targeting of Anwar al Awlaki by US Counterterrorism strategists misses the mark.  He states that Anwar al Awlaki is an insignificant target and that killing him will do little protect the United States from future terrorist attacks.  In his goal to diminish the importance of an individual like Al Awlaki to Al Qaeda, Johnsen lists other ranking members and their roles in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

There is no doubt that all of those mentioned, Nasir al Wuhayshi, Adil al Abab, Qassim al Raymi, Ibrahim Asiri, and Suleiman al Rubaysh, are the ranking leadership of that branch of Al Qaeda.  It is also reasonably certain that US Special Operation forces have their dossiers and are actively looking to neutralize them in a quieter much less public manner than Anwar al Awlaki.

What then is al Awlaki's role if he is not the chief strategist, or ordnance maker, or spiritual leader?  He is in fact a much needed facilitator or more importantly a cheerleading motivational speaker, much like Adam Gadahn, to another group of potential terrorists, the homegrown.

In January of this year the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a report regarding the threat of Al Qaeda in Yemen  (pdf document) which in part stated that AQAP was "actively seeking to recruit Americans".

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