U.S. drones apparently have carried out a successful strike against Al-Qaida's number three and a co-founder of the international terror group, Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid (aka Sheikh Sa'id Al-Masri). Al-Yazid was the director of Al-Qaida's financial operations in Afghanistan, a member of its governing shura council, and "a key to Al-Qaida's command and control."
The assault, which took place in Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan, was confirmed by al-Qaida sources on a variety of jihadist websites, following last month's assertion by U.S. forces. According to MSNBC:
"U.S. officials hailed the news of Al-Yazid's demise, saying it was 'a big victory' in terms of counterterrorism, describing him as 'the group's chief operating officer, with a hand in everything from finances to operational planning. He was also the organization's prime conduit to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.'"
Roger Cressey, former deputy chief for counterterrorism at the National Security Council and now an NBC News consultant noted, "In some respects, Sheikh Sa'id's death is more important for al-Qaida operations than if bin Laden or Zawahiri was killed… Any Al-Qaida operation of any consequence would run through him."
Al-Yazid had been a shadowy figure for years following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He resurfaced in an Al-Qaida media interview in May 2007, as the "official in charge" of the operations in Afghanistan. Statements posted on extremist websites by Al-Qaida's media channel, Al-Sabah, have not identified a successor to Al-Yazid or the division of the myriad of roles which Al-Yazid filled.
The effects on Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a loosely affiliated branch of the international terror organization, also remain to be seen. As U.S. military forces put continuing pressure on the organization, AQAP has pursued a more independent strategy of encouraging homegrown radicalization and attacks inside Western nations. This differs sharply from the operational style of Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and particularly Al-Yazid, who immediately before the 9/11 attacks transferred thousands of dollars to Al-Qaida's leadership driven attack on New York and Washington.
Al-Yazid's departure as a day-to-day commander of the top-heavy Afghani branch, may rank as one of the major successes in the 10-year war on Al-Qaida.