A suspected U.S. drone strike on a vehicle traveling in Pakistan's tribal region reportedly killed four militants on Tuesday, only days after the U.S. launched similar strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. But even though the U.S. intelligence community is, as The Los Angeles Times put it, "racing to exploit" the intelligence seized from Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan before al-Qaeda groups or leaders "change their communication methods or move their safe houses," news outlets are generally stopping short of drawing a direct connection between the drone strikes and the bin Laden raid. Many reports include some variation of the AFP's characterization of today's strike in the Angoor Adda area of South Waziristan as the "second such operation since the killing of Osama bin Laden."
As we pointed out last week, it's tempting to assume that the U.S. is swiftly leveraging the bin Laden data to take out al-Qaeda's top operatives, but there's no hard evidence to prove it. In fact, the timing of the recent attacks may be no more than a coincidence. The Wall Street Journal points out that Thursday's strike in Yemen, which was intended to kill American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, "appears to be unrelated to intelligence information taken" in the bin Laden raid and instead a product of months of intelligence collection. Indeed, the attack on Awlaki may be more related to another series of events: the uprisings in the Arab world. As The Christian Science Monitor explains, the Obama administration is "capitalizing on political unrest" in Yemen to gather information about al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. "The burst of cooperation appears to be a bid from the Saleh government for greater US support as it struggles to hold onto power," the Monitor notes.