Al-Qaida's No. 2: The Easiest Kill in Terrorism


Forget Deadliest Catch, Ax Men and Ice Road Truckers -- whichever cable channel wants to reign supreme by creating the ultimate show about dangerous professions should toss a camera crew and a coked-out producer into some Afghani caves to film the exploits and inevitable death of al-Qaida's second in command. Over the past few years, that job has planted itself firmly atop the list of professions that most resemble being the drummer in Spinal Tap.

America has been steadily dropping deuces like someone put laxative in our chili, as we've captured or killed (mostly killed) seven of al-Qaida's second-highest-ranking commanders since 2006. That's an average of 1.16 per year. That's a whole No. 2, plus, like, another one's leg. Every year. It's no wonder we often hear talk of al-Qaida operating in a far weaker state than the beast we all came to know and despise after 9/11. Imagine if the No. 2 in charge at your company just up and died every year. Even if the No. 2 at your job is the biggest dipshit in all the land, that much turnover at the management level is going to doom any company.

And we did it again this past weekend with a drone strike that took out the latest al-Qaida No. 2, Said al-Shehri. Or maybe it's spelled Saeed al-Shihri? News organizations can't even agree on a spelling; there are just too many names of dead guys pouring in, there's no time to double check.

The comically absurd rotation of No. 2s began in September of 2006, when it was reported that then-No. 2 Hamid Juma Faris al-Suaidi was arrested in Iraq. As far as we could find, that's the last anyone heard of him. Seeing as how he wasn't killed, we're assuming he's somewhere comfortably awaiting a totally fair trial, along with everyone else we've arrested on terrorism charges.

We then took a two-year rest from slaying No. 2s, only to come roaring back by killing Abu Qaswarah in October 2008. Back then, U.S. military officials were "stunned by how quickly al-Qaida in Iraq regenerates its leadership as top insurgents are detained or killed." That's what the kid from Gremlins must have thought at some point during Gremlins 2.


After killing Qaswarah, America retired from killing No. 2s for a few years, until the country's grizzled former captain brought us back from retirement for one more go around, like the living, breathing embodiment of the Rambo franchise that we are. But this time we weren't going to kill one and be satisfied -- we were going to make sure we and our allies killed every No. 2, once and for all. Since April 2011, we've killed four al-Qaida No. 2s:

Abdul Ghani was obliterated by a drone strike in April 2011.

Atiyah Abd al-Rahman was killed in Pakistan, reportedly by drone strike, in August 2011.

Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed by a drone strike in June 2012 in Pakistan.

Said al-Shihri was killed by a drone in Yemen in September 2012.

At this point, we should just bomb the factory where al-Qaida is manufacturing all of these No. 2s, because they have to be built, right? No one in their right mind would apply to a position that was previously vacated five times due to repeated rains of hellfire.

Al-Qaida's No. 2: The Easiest Kill in Terrorism

"I'd say my biggest weakness is caring too much about the death of infidels."

But consider this: Before he was killed, Osama bin Laden thought about "rebranding" Al-Qaida because he was "deeply concerned by an apparent loss of support in the Muslim world." Maybe if he had lived long enough to see his plan through, bin Laden would have rebranded the clearly unlucky No. 2 position to make it seem less like an automatic death sentence and more of a James Bond-esque mission filled with sex and intrigue. Or maybe he could just have told them to not take shade under the drone shadows -- it's nice and cool under there, but they also have a negative impact on limb retention, and al-Qaida's insurance doesn't cover being blown to bits by sky-robots.

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