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Video: The hunt for Osama bin Laden: For almost a decade, U.S. intelligence officials were stymied by Osama bin Laden. That is until CIA analysts at Langley changed their focus to the al-Qaeda leader's secret courier network.
Largely because of bin Laden’s death, “we can even see the end of al-Qaeda as the global, borderless, united jihad,” said another U.S. official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. “What that doesn’t mean is an end to terrorists and people targeting the United States.”
Officials also point to the cumulative effect of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. Missiles fired by the unmanned aircraft have killed at least 1,200 militants since 2004, including 224 this year, according to figures compiled by the New America Foundation. Many of the strikes have been aimed at al-Qaeda allies also accused of attacking American targets; those allies include the Haqqani network and the Pakistani Taliban.
Beyond bin Laden, “we have eliminated a number of generations of leaders,” said the senior U.S. counterterrorism official. “They have not had a successful operation in a long time. You at some point have to ask yourself, ‘What else do we have to do?’”
Ayman al-Zawahiri, who succeeded bin Laden as leader of al-Qaeda, is among a handful of “high-value targets” left in Pakistan, U.S. officials said. Zawahiri is seen as a divisive figure who may struggle to prevent al-Qaeda from splintering into smaller, more regionally focused nodes.
AQAP, as the Yemen-based group is known, has emerged as the most dangerous of those affiliates. The group is responsible for recent plots, including the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and the attempt to mail parcels packed with explosives to U.S. addresses last year.
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