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How Effective are Unilateral, Targeted Kill/Capture Operations as Part of United States Counterterrorism (CT) Strategy Against Al Qaeda (AQ) and Its Affiliates?


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A key component of U.S. Counterterrorism strategy since the Al Qaeda attacks against America on September 11, 2001 has been the use of targeted kill/capture operations. These operations have had a short-term, negative effect on the AQ networks ability to plan and conduct large-scale terrorist attacks against U.S. interests by denying terrorist leaders the ability to plan at the operational level. Yet the tactic of targeted kill/capture operations has proven to be controversial with those who reject the U.S. notion of an armed conflict with AQ. Criticism has arisen over the secrecy surrounding the targeted kill/capture program, lack of accountability of the tactic, and civilian deaths. The blurring of international treaty law and the expansion of the tactic of targeted killings has tarnished the U.S.s international reputation as an upholder of the rule of law. To achieve the longer term national security aims of defeating AQ, the U.S. should: recalibrate and refocus efforts on diplomatic, informational, and economic responses to the threat; declare an end the to war against AQ and prosecute future disrupt operations against AQ under International Human Rights Law; consider unilateral kill/capture operations as a last resort against clear and imminent threats under the notion of self-defense; and focus SOF on capacity building partner nations CT capabilities.



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