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The United States may have just dealt al Qaeda a double-blow: a US airstrike killed al Qaeda’s general manager and head of the virulent Yemeni branch, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Nasser al Wahayshi, in eastern Yemen Friday; and two F-15s, targeting a meeting of radical Islamist leaders in Libya Saturday, reportedly killed al Qaeda veteran operative Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
No one is fighting AQAP today. US administration officials insist that the US maintains the capability to disrupt AQAP threats to the homeland and American interests. Yet the last reported US airstrike in Yemen was two months ago, perhaps a sign of the lack of actionable intelligence from the country.
The United States began withdrawing its remaining personnel from Yemen Saturday, citing deteriorating security conditions. The move diminishes America’s intelligence footprint in Yemen and abandons the country to AQAP, the Iranian-backed al Houthis, and, now, the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS).
If radicalism and the theological basis of Islamist terrorism is to be addressed, it’s important to discuss the specifics of interpretation and the disputes and debates within the body of Islamic law. Simply condemning the whole body of Islamic law misses the point of the problem and is counterproductive.