Almost exactly four years ago, Anwar al Awlaki was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen, marking the first targeted killing of a U.S. citizen by the U.S. government. To Lawfare readers, it is likely a well-known event. But lost in many of the debates over legal theories and counterterrorism necessities, is a different story, one that is more personal and nuanced.
This week, New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane came on the Lawfare Podcast to provide an overview of his new book on the life and death of the radical Islamic cleric entitled Objective Troy: A Terrorist, A President, and the Rise of the Drone. Shane examinines the key moments in the life of al Awlaki that led him to leave the United States after 9/11, to flee to Yemen, and to take up arms with al Qaeda. In his conversation with Ben, he covers the role played by al Awlaki in al Qaeda's plots against the United States, his continued influence on the jihadi movement, and how his life and death was intimately tied to the rise of the drone in U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Why and how did al Awlaki transform from a leader in American Islamic thought into a recruiter for al Qaeda? And what lessons can the trajectory of his life teach us about countering violent extremism and the effectiveness of the methods the United States uses to achieve its counterterrorism goals?
A few weeks ago, Ben reviewed Objective Troy for Lawfare. From that review:
Shane’s book, Objective Troy: A Terrorist, A President, and the Rise of the Drone, takes on both the bureaucratic and military story of the rise of the drone program and Obama’s investment in it and the human story of Al-Awlaki’s own development and transformation. Objective Troy is a gripping read. It’s also one of the more informative accounts of the development of American counterterrorism—and the development of America’s terrorist enemies—that I’ve read in a while. Shane has done a great deal of reporting in a great deal of depth, from the high echelons of the White House to Yemeni friends and family of Awlaki. It’s a very impressive work across a number of axes. And to my mind, at least, it unravels some of the important mysteries about one of the more mysterious figures to arise in the post-9/11 era.
It's the Lawfare Podcast: How Anwar al Awlaki Became Objective Troy.