WHITE HOUSE - The White House says the killing of al-Qaida's second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, apparently in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan's North Waziristan region, has further degraded the organization's leadership.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that the U.S. intelligence community has confirmed al-Libi's death, though he declined to go into details about the circumstances in which the al-Qaida leader died. U.S. officials who earlier confirmed al-Libi's death said he was killed in a drone strike in northwestern Pakistan.
Carney said al-Libi served as a "general manager" for al-Qaida and had a role in managing regional affiliates. His elimination, Carney said, is another major blow against the terrorist organization.
"This is the second time in less than a year that the number two leader of al-Qaida has been removed from the battlefield, and that represents in the wake of the death of Osama bin-Laden another serious blow to core al-Qaida, in what is an ongoing effort to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat a foe that brought great terror and death to the United States on September 11, 2001, and that has perpetrated acts of terrorism against innocent civilians around the globe," said Carney.
But with U.S.-Pakistan relations at a low point because of drone strikes, last year's U.S. operation that killed Osama bin-Laden and the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a NATO airstrike, the killing of al-Libi raises additional questions.
The United States and Pakistan have not resolved the issue of reopening NATO supply routes Pakistan closed last year after the errant NATO airstrike on a Pakistani border post.
On Tuesday, Pakistan's foreign ministry expressed "serious concern" about the latest drone attacks, including the one that apparently killed al-Libi. Islamabad called them "unlawful" and a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.
White House Press Secretary Carney would not go into detail about where al-Libi was killed. He had this response when asked whether the development has complicated efforts to persuade Pakistan to reopen NATO supply routes:
"We have an important relationship with Pakistan that we endeavor to work on every day because it is in our national security interests to do so," he said.
Carney said he had no update on negotiations with Pakistan on reopening NATO supply routes, but he added that both sides are committed to resolving the issue and believe it will be resolved.