The U.S. believes it has killed Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, the second-in-command of Al Qaeda, in a drone strike in Waziristan, Pakistan on August 22. It is a painful loss for Al Qaeda, as his importance is arguably even greater than that of the group’s chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Obama administration will cite his death as evidence that the “strategic defeat” of Al Qaeda is near.
There is no firm confirmation of Rahman’s death. A Pakistani intelligence official confirmed to The Independent that Rahman has been killed. However, a Taliban commander in Pakistan insists, “It’s a fake story. It’s not true.” A Pakistani official in Peshawar has expressed doubts, claiming that no informants in the area could substantiate the reports. Rahman has been falsely reported as having been killed before, but the U.S. appears confident that he has been taken out.
Rahman was one of five terrorist leaders that the U.S. told Pakistan would be unilaterally targeted if it did not locate them by July. David Ignatius argues that Rahman was the most important Al Qaeda figure because “whatever thread still held al-Qaeda together passed from bin Laden through to Rahman.” He is not believed to have dealt with the details of individual operations, but he did work with Bin Laden on the general planning for a spectacular attack on the U.S. for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. He was the overall leader for Al Qaeda in the Pakistani tribal regions, and handled communication between Osama Bin Laden and his commanders.