Despite efforts to tamp down speculation about al Qaeda's fall in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death in early May, U.S. counterterrorism officials increasingly believe it left the organization on the brink of collapse, The Washington Post reports.
Even through his years in hiding, bin Laden remained an active manager of the group and his charisma helped popularize the brand and export it to other countries. In his absence, officials believe a few more successful attacks against the group could lead to its demise. Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's successor, is one of only a few top targets left in Pakistan and is unlikely to be as successful as his predecessor because he is a more divisive figure within the organization.
The result of this analysis is a renewed focus on the Yemen-based offshoot of the group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is believed to be a greater threat than the original group based in Pakistan, and was responsible for the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane in December 2009. The administration recently approved the construction of a Persian Gulf airstrip for armed CIA drones to conduct strikes in Yemen, and the CIA will be increasing its role there and working with Saudi Arabia, which has ties to Yemen's most influential tribes.
U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, the group responsible for the raid on bin Laden's compound, is leading the charge against AQAP. They carried out a strike against Anwar al-Awlaki, the group's leader, only days after bin Laden was killed, but were unable to kill him.