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A stepped-up campaign of drone strikes in Yemen and diplomatic missions shut in 19 countries, and another on Friday in Lahore, Pakistan, have all come for fear of an al-Qaeda attack: if President Barack Obama was eager to wind down the “global war on terror” this summer these events have brought that war very much back to the fore.
The exact nature of the threat posed to US missions has yet to be made public and the secretive nature of the CIA’s drone programme in Yemen makes its aims equally opaque.
But the new plot and the flurry of drone strikes have revived discussion about whether al-Qaeda has been “decimated”, as Obama administration officials have repeatedly claimed. They come after more than a decade of targeted killings, aggressive surveillance and an intense focus by the US on the threat from terrorism.