A U.S. airstrike may have killed top al-Qaida leader Farouq al-Qahtani Sunday, who U.S. government officials was actively plotting strikes on the west.
A Department of Treasury terrorist designation noted that Qahtani had “a long history of directing deadly attacks against U.S. forces and our Coalition allies in Afghanistan, along with plotting al-Qaida terrorist operations in the United States and around the world.” Wikileaks documents reveal the U.S. tried to kill Qahatani as far back as 2008, with one mission almost ending in disaster.
Qahtani was only in his mid-30’s but well known in the al-Qaida hierarchy. “We have a good battalion over there led by brother Faruq al-Qatari,’ an al-Qaida operative wrote Usama Bin-Laden in a letter captured by U.S. Navy Seals in the raid to kill Bin-Laden in 2011.
Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook described Qahtani Wednesday as “a senior planner for attacks against the United States, and has a long history of directing deadly attacks against US forces and our coalition allies,” further noting that he was “assigned by the group’s leadership to re-establish al Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan.” Cook did not confirm Qahtani’s death, but told reporters he was targeted.
“There is one particular terrorist in South Asia whom I worry the most about — Farouq al-Qahtani,” Former Acting Director of the CIA Micheal Morrell wrote in 2015. Morrell described Qahtani as “operationally sophisticated” and “a charismatic leader” who rivaled al-Qaida leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri for influence in the global terrorist organization.
Some U.S. counter-terrorism experts pushed back on this characterization of Qahatani to the Washington Post saying Qahtani “was more like a statesman, building and maintaining relationships with the Taliban to ensure al-Qaeda access in the post-U.S.-presence era.”
After spending a trillion dollars and deploying hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, Jihadi groups are likely to find safe haven in Afghanistan, an August report from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) warns. ISW warned, “If Afghanistan remains on this course, global extremist organizations will reconstitute their sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s ungoverned spaces and pose enduring threats to U.S. national security.”
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