Amid the debate about whether US drone strikes go too far, the Wall Street Journal reports that US officials are considering a "significant" expansion of the nation's targeted-killing program into northwest Africa. Specifically, the powers-that-be are debating whether to add Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar to the Pentagon's capture-or-kill list. For now, the US is taking a second-hand approach to going after Belmokhtar, providing information to allies about his suspected whereabouts.
That could change, however, given Belmokhtar's growing status. His militia is responsible for the recent attack on a gas plant in Algeria, and he is also thought to be looking to hit Western targets. The debate on adding him to the list would be easier, the Journal notes, if official could establish clear ties between him and al-Qaeda, but that's where things get a little fuzzy. His militia is called Those Who Sign in Blood, and it's described as offshoot of al-Qaeda's branch in North Africa, called al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Leading an offshoot of an affiliate might not cut it—unless Belmokhtar makes good on his promise to start hitting Western targets.