Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook on Strikes against Al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
On October 23rd, U.S. forces conducted precision strikes in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, targeting Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi, two of al-Qaeda's most senior leaders in Afghanistan. We are still assessing the results of the strikes, but 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.
Al-Qatani served as al-Qaeda's emir for northeastern Afghanistan, assigned by the group's leadership to re-establish al-Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan. 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. Likewise, al-Utabi is assessed to have been involved in efforts to re-establish a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to threaten the West, and in efforts to recruit and train foreign fighters.
After an extensive period of surveillance, the United States targeted al-Qatani and al-Utabi at what was assessed as command-and-control locations in remote areas of Kunar province. If these strikes are determined to be successful, eliminating these core leaders of al-Qaeda 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-Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan.