Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the ensuing “war on terrorism,” the U.S. government has engaged in a series of controversial counterterrorism policies. Perhaps none is more so than the use of targeted killings aimed at eliminating the senior leadership of the global jihadist movement. Nevertheless, prior research has yet to establish that this type of tactic is effective, even among high-profile targets. Employing a robust methodology, I find that these types of killings primarily yielded negligible effects.
Given the immense controversy surrounding the policy of targeted killings, it has become that much more vital to assess whether such measures are effective. This study's findings, that most of these high-profile killings either had no influence or were associated with a backlash effect, have important implications for future counterterrorism efforts. All in all, the U.S. government's investment in the policy of targeted killings seems to be counterproductive if its main intention is a decrease in terrorism perpetrated by the global jihadist movement.
Carson, Jennifer Varriale. 2017. "Assessing the Effectiveness of High-Profile Targeted Killings in the 'War on Terror.'" Criminology and Public Policy (January). http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1745-9133.12274/abstract