The U.S. killing of the al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan was not justified in self-defense or under the international law of war or international human rights law. It looks more like an extrajudicial execution, or revenge murder, for past acts of terrorism.
In the years since Sept. 11, 2001, understanding the Al Qaeda organization—its strategy, ideology and leadership structure—has become a major preoccupation of both scholars and security specialists. Policymakers and legal scholars have debated what legal tools and tactics we should and should not use to defeat the organization. And as the long war that began on 9/11 drags on, defining which precise individuals and groups constitute the group and its allies remains one of the most crucial questions national-security lawyers have to address.