Richard Fernandez (aka Belmont Club) has a great, link-filled post on the most recent airstrike within Pakistan –
…yet another missile struck al-Qaeda in the Pakistani border area. “One of al Qaeda’s top chemical and biological weapons experts was killed in an air strike by a CIA pilotless drone,” according to CBS News. Abu Khabab Al-Masri is dead, according to al-Qaeda website. Several other men were killed in the strike.
Al-Masri’s central roles in both Al Qaeda and the lives of any frequent flier are pretty impressive –
…The LA Times says al-Masri was behind the failed post-September 11 plot to blow up airplanes en route from Britain to the United States, an event now memoralized in the restrictions on passenger-embarked bottles of fluids.The innovative techniques required special instruction. Masri envisioned his operatives injecting the liquid explosives, a highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide mix, with a syringe into the false bottoms of innocuous containers such as sports drinks, sneaking the components aboard and assembling bombs after takeoff.
…The Associated Press also credits al-Masri with training the suicide bombers who attacked the USS Cole.
This strike is only the most recent in 5-6 other high profile hits in the past few months. Tellingly, the daily, operational grinding that is being inflicted on Al Qaeda in Pakistan is also evident and likely played a crucial role in finding al-Masri –
…With the decimation of his henchmen, the master bomber was forced to venture out himself and train volunteers who were often of indifferent quality.
Masri assumed more control. â€¦ Last spring, he taught bomb-making in compounds in North Waziristan to aspiring suicide attackers, including a 21-year-old Pakistani living in Denmark and a 45-year-old Pakistani-German, according to U.S. and European officials. U.S. anti-terrorism source sees Masri’s role as a symptom of decline. “The fact he trained them himself shows you some of the limitations of the network,” the source said.
p>A recurring topic for me on SM is how so many of our notions of civilized state behavior get chucked out the window when dealing with technologically- / globalization-charged 21st century terror orgs.
p>In the nice, predictable Westphalian world, terrorism was a police operation and American cops / FBI (or, more directly Afghan cops) would make a quick call to their neighboring jurisdiction and expect ’em to dispatch resources to nab the perps. Rogue states and the like certainly existed but tech & travel made it difficult for them to seriously reach out and touch comfy, cozy Westerners.
In Pakistan we see all those assumptions about diplomacy, soft power, sovereign respect, and high minded rhetoric tested in ways that leave many uncomfortable. Once armed with solid intel on al Masri’s whereabouts, should the US have respected international law and simply passed the data on to Pakistani authorities? What if there wasn’t enough time to act? Or what if the “authorities” had only minimal control of the territory in question? Or even worse, what if the authorities themselves were part of the problem?
In a world fed up with American bullying, unilateralism, and “act first, get permission later” behavior, it sadly appears that there would have been no other option for nailing al-Masri. Regardless of the path by which we got to this state of affairs (and many argue that it’s the more “natural” one relative to our “historical slumber” in the world of diplomats & cops), the issue is still what to do when the next al-Masri moment presents itself. And aside from some international law theorists, I venture that in this case, we are all better off for the path chosen.