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Urging Caution On al-Masri Death Speculation

It should be noted that it is still unconfirmed whether or not Abu Khabab al-Masri was killed in Pakistan in a CIA missile strike. A couple of things to consider.

First, ThreatsWatch’s Nick Grace observes that the al-Qaeda forums are still mum on the issue of whether or not al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker and chemical expert has met his maker. This, Nick notes, is unlike back in January “when Laith al-Libi was taken out [and] the forum immediately began to buzz. An official eulogy was posted within hours.” Not so in this instance regarding al-Masri, which is a very significant indicator - if imperfect - to judge by.

Second, I have had no conversation with any contacts that have expressed confidence. All express hope and most express caution, some not even cautious optimism.

Our rather deadpan observation in today’s DailyBriefing is worth repeating here.

2. Though confirmed only by an anonymous Pakistani intelligence source thus far, it is believed that al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker and chemical expert, Abu Khabab al-Masri, was killed in a US Predator drone strike inside Pakistan. Initial reactions are the standard lot; Pakistani warnings against US attacks inside Pakistan, US assurances that it respects Pak sovereignty, and dead al-Qaeda terrorists inside Pakistani territory.

In hindsight, the wording above seems to convey a bit of optimism on our part, which was a poor choice in wording. The greater point to be made is not whether or not al-Masri is dead. Time - and al-Qaeda - will tell. But the greater point is to recognize continued US efforts, continued Pakistani domestic objections, continued US assurances, followed by continued US attacks (based on intelligence data) when a high value target is believed within striking distance.

Pakistan must maintain the domestic image of independence, but reality in the current is that they are quite dependent and, like it or not, are just as much an al-Qaeda and Taliban target as America and American forces.