After an al-Qaeda terrorist leader was killed in a U.S. airstrike, Secretary of Defense James Mattis sent a strong message to anyone around the world who carries out acts of violence in the name of Islam.
A press release from the Department of Defense confirmed the death of Qari Yasin in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan on March 19. Explaining Yasin's history of violent extremism, the statement reads:
Yasin, a senior terrorist figure from Balochistan, Pakistan, had ties to Tehrik-e Taliban and had plotted multiple al Qaida terror attacks, including the Sept. 20, 2008, bombing on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed dozens of innocent people, among them U.S. Air Force Maj. Rodolfo I. Rodriguez and Navy Cryptologic Technician Third Class Petty Officer Matthew J. O’Bryant.
Yasin was also responsible for the 2009 attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed and six members of the team injured.
The most vicious attack Yasin was connected to left 52 people dead and more than 250 others wounded in Pakistan's capital city of Islamabad.
The blast from the truck bombing that was carried out in front of the Islamabad Marriott was so powerful, it shredded the building and left a 30-foot crater in the ground at the site of the attack.
The release concludes with a terse and direct statement from Sec. Mattis himself, declaring just how the United States plans to treat terrorists under his direction:
“The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice.”
While some in President Donald Trump's inner circle hold harsh views on Islam and stress the need to specifically label attacks as “radical Islamic terrorism,” Sec. Mattis' comments echo the sentiment of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
In his first meeting with his staff, McMaster argued that the “radical Islamic terrorism” label damages the United States' fight against extremism and feeds into terrorist propaganda methods. Mattis' specification that terrorists who carry out acts of violence “defame Islam” appears to align himself with McMaster's view on the issue.
Since joining the Trump administration, the always-outspoken retired Marine general has never hesitated to go against the grain. After President Trump declared the media the “enemy of the American people,” Mattis made clear that he did not share that view:
“I’ve had some rather contentious times with the press. But no, the press is a constituency — as far as I’m concerned — that we deal with and I don’t have any issues with the press, myself."
In contrast with Mattis and McMaster, former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn referred to Islamism as a “vicious cancer” that “has to be excised” from the bodies of all Muslims. Additionally, Flynn had previously referred to Islam as a whole as a “cancer.”