As the United States prepares to withdraw most -- if not all -- of its forces from Afghanistan in December, reports have begun to emerge that the country is intensifying its efforts to deal a "lasting blow" to the Taliban-linked Haqqani network (TOLO News). According to multiple U.S. officials who spoke to Reuters, the Obama administration created a special unit late last year to coordinate efforts against the Pakistan-based militant group (Reuters). The "fusion cell," as it is known, brings together special and conventional forces, as well as intelligence personnel and civilians. While an anonymous U.S. defense official told the wire service that: "Things are coming together... there's a lot of energy behind it right now," there are questions about how effective the cell can be this late in the NATO combat mission, and against a group many believe is supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (McClatchy).
Meanwhile the Obama administration is considering targeting an American militant currently living in Pakistan with a drone. While previous reports about this issue had not listed the suspected al Qaeda member, the New York Times reported on Friday that he is known as Abdullah al-Shami, a nom de guerre meaning "Abdullah the Syrian" (NYT). While U.S. officials did not provide the Times with Shami's biographical information, one senior administration official said: "We have clear and convincing evidence that he's involved in the production and distribution of I.E.D.'s [sic]."
The report notes that the debate over targeting Shami has raised a number of questions about the United States' targeted killing program, such as "under what circumstances the government may kill American citizens without a trial, whether the battered leadership of Al Qaeda in Pakistan still poses an imminent threat to Americans, and whether the C.I.A. or the Pentagon ought to be the dominant agency running America's secret wars."
While U.S. drone strikes have killed four Americans fighting overseas, only one -- Anwar al-Awlaki -- was intentionally targeted.