Precision U.S. strikes conducted Oct. 23 targeted two of al-Qaida’s most senior leaders in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced last night.
In a statement, Cook said officials are still assessing the results of the strikes, which targeted Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi.
“Their demise would represent a significant blow to the terrorist group’s presence in Afghanistan, which remains committed to facilitating attacks against the United States, our allies and partners,” the press secretary said.
Qatani served as al-Qaida’s emir for northeastern Afghanistan, assigned by the group’s leadership to re-establish safe havens for the terrorist organization, Cook said. “He was a senior planner for attacks against the United States, and has a long history of directing deadly attacks against U.S. forces and our coalition allies,” he added.
Utabi is assessed to have been involved in efforts to re-establish a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to threaten the West, Cook said, and in efforts to recruit and train foreign fighters.
After an extensive period of surveillance, the United States targeted the al-Qaida leaders at what was assessed as command-and-control locations in remote areas of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Cook said.
“If these strikes are determined to be successful,” he added, “eliminating these core leaders of al-Qaida will disrupt efforts to plot against the United States and our allies and partners around the world, reduce the threat to our Afghan partners, and assist their efforts to deny al-Qaida safe haven in Afghanistan.