Special Ops Are Better Than Drones for Counterterror Missions

Special Ops Are Better Than Drones for Counterterror Missions
An image from a video provided by the U.S. Department of Defense shows the compound where Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi died during a U.S. raid, in Idlib province, Syria, Feb. 3, 2022 (Department of Defense via AP Images).

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered a team of U.S. special operations forces to carry out a raid in northern Syria that is now stoking legal controversy. The mission targeted a residential compound where Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi had been holed up with his family and civilian neighbors. By the end, al-Qurayshi and a disputed number of civilians were dead.

As Washington Post reporter Miriam Berger has explained, since Syria did not consent for U.S. forces to carry out the raid, Biden’s order arguably violated the charter of the United Nations, which limits a state’s ability to carry out attacks on foreign soil. The United States’ justification for doing so in its hunt for transnational terrorists rests on a highly disputed legal theory that suggests a state like Syria foregoes its sovereignty when it is “unable or unwilling” to apprehend such individuals itself.

The strike runs afoul of U.S. domestic law as well. The Biden administration has argued that the 2001 law allowing the U.S. to battle al-Qaida using military force can also be extended to the Islamic State. But this rationale stands on shaky ground, considering the well-documented split between these groups. And, as I’ve argued often before, the very concept of targeted killing outside of active conflict zones can be viewed as a form of illegal extrajudicial execution.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.