A SERIES OF COUNTER-TERRORISM VICTORIES…. For the political world, the focus is obviously on health care reform, and to a lesser extent, financial reform and energy policy. But turning attention to national security policy, it seems the United States has scored some recent victories that haven’t generated a lot of attention. This, for example, is a significant development.
American commandos killed one of the most wanted Islamic militants in Africa in a daylight raid in southern Somalia on Monday, according to American and Somali officials, an indication of the Obama administration’s willingness to use combat troops strategically against Al Qaeda’s growing influence in the region.
Western intelligence agents have described the militant, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, as the ringleader of a Qaeda cell in Kenya responsible for the bombing of an Israeli hotel on the Kenyan coast in 2002. Mr. Nabhan may have also played a role in the attacks on two American embassies in East Africa in 1998.
American military forces have been hunting him for years, and on Monday, around 1 p.m., villagers near the town of Baraawe said four military helicopters suddenly materialized over the horizon and shot at two trucks rumbling through the desert.
The trucks were carrying leaders of the Shabab, an Islamist extremist group fighting to overthrow Somalia’s weak but internationally recognized government. The Shabab work hand-in-hand with foreign terrorists, according to Western and Somali agents, and in the past few months, as the battle for control of Somalia has intensified, the group seems to be drawing increasingly close to Al Qaeda.
A senior American adviser told the Times, “This is very significant because it takes away a person who’s been a main conduit between the East Africa extremists and big Al Qaeda.”
The strike came the same day as counterterrorism officials raided several residences in Queens, where suspected terrorists are believed to have been plotting.
Yesterday’s news comes on the heels of U.S. forces killing Baitullah Mehsud, the top leader of the Taliban in Pakistan and a key al Qaeda ally, who was believed to be responsible for the Benazir Bhutto assassination and scores of suicide bombings.
And that report came on the heels of counterterrorism officials thwarting another possible plot in New York.
All of this comes against the backdrop of al Qaeda’s reported difficulties, fueled in part by U.S. strikes.
Taken together, it seems like the Obama administration is having quite a bit of success on the counterterrorism front. Indeed, if these developments had occurred in 2008, I suspect the White House would be releasing photos of Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol chest-bumping each other on the South Lawn.
Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a very foolish item, arguing that President Obama prefers a “see-no-evil approach,” has decided not to “worry so much about terrorism.”
The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.