Strike vs. Raid: How Al-Qurayshi’s Death May Reflect a Transition in U.S. Counterterrorism Policy
Legislative Background & Coinciding Controversy:
- The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed in response to 9/11, “authorize[s] the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.” This legislation grants the president, as commander in chief, the power to pursue counterterrorism efforts and military action without consulting congress for prior approval.
- Today, the 2001 AUMF is riddled with controversy, as the authorization is being used as legal justification for military action against a variety of groups – some of which did not even exist when the legislation was originally passed – in 22 different countries.
- Much of this force occurs through air and drone strikes, an approach associated with a high degree of civilian casualties. According to AIRWARS estimates, which have been cited in congressional hearings, as many as 22,000-48,000 civilians have been killed by U.S. coalition strikes since 2001.
Biden Administration Performs Raid:
- On February 3, 2022, under the command of President Joe Biden, U.S. forces conducted a raid on the house of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurayshi.
- The decision to utilize a raid, as opposed to a strike, was an effort by the administration to prevent civilian casualties. This approach places U.S. forces in a position of increased danger yet enhances operatives’ ability to distinguish between targets and noncombatants.
- Despite this intention, Al-Qurayshi detonated an explosive to evade capture, thus killing himself and surrounding family members.
- On February 9, 2022, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “Targeted Killing and the Rule of Law: The Legal and Human Costs of 20 Years of U.S. Drone Strikes.”
- Witness Stephen Pomper of the International Crisis Group criticized the 2001 AUMF more generally, advocating for provisions clarifying who the U.S. is fighting, where, and to what end. He also advised for a periodic reauthorization requirement.
- Other witnesses, such as Hina Shamsi of National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union and Radhya al-Mutawakel of Mwatana for Human Rights, highlighted the destruction and fear caused by U.S. coalition air strikes and the lack of apologies, reparations, and justice for civilian victims of these campaigns.