Eleven years ago, al-Qaeda forces attacked the World Trade Center, killing 3,000 people. In what many would call justice, al-Qaeda is now slowly crumbling. Said al-Shihri, the second-in-command of the group’s Arabian Peninsula offshoot (AQAP), has been killed, along with other senior al-Qaeda officials, in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. His death represents a major blow to the terrorist group that has caused so much strife in the world.
Al-Qaeda has been doomed since the 9/11 attacks. For years, it has been the most prominent and dangerous terrorist organization in the world, conducting attacks in multiple countries and successfully recruiting hundreds of young, disillusioned men. But the group is now tearing at the seams. The Arab Spring instilled confidence and hope for a new government in many Middle Eastern countries, which convinced some to steer away from terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. Many senior officials of the group were killed, and the death of al-Shihri might be the most significant one since Osama bin Laden, the notorious founder. As the second-in-command of AQAP, al-Shihri was responsible for recruiting and fundraising in the largest base of people that al-Qaeda could draw from, that of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain, and other countries on the peninsula.
The death of al-Shihri demonstrates how crucial it is for the U.S. and other countries to capitalize on our achievements toward eradicating terrorism. This is not the time for the United States to withdraw support of Yemen and Saudi Arabia, two countries whose governments have redoubled efforts against al-Qaeda. Certainly, they have committed numerous human rights offenses and those offenses must be dealt with. But when the possibility of destroying al-Qaeda is near, America cannot afford to the leave the war on terrorism to its own devices, and disregard the advances of Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Both countries have significant sway in the Middle East and different advantages. Saudi Arabia is oil-rich, and Yemen’s government is motivated to help by the possibility of al-Qaeda taking over the country. Additionally, the brother of al-Qaeda’s leader, Mohamed al Zawahiri, has approached CNN and described his proposal for peace. He claims that he wants to end the violence between the West and Middle East, and is in a unique position to do so as he has the respect of many Islamists and the confidence of his brother. With the assistance of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, as well as mediation and support by an al-Qaeda leader’s brother, the U.S. might just be able to put the final nail in al-Qaeda’s coffin.