Al Qaeda: a crippled network?

Two major items appeared in the news the past week, both of which speak to the survivability of al Qaeda “central” in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death.  The first, a piece by David Ignatius, details the intelligence treasure trove that fell into the CIA’s hands from the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  A couple of crucial points: 1) bin Laden was fretting mightily about the persistence of America’s drone war on the Pakistani side of the Af-Pak border (he referred to it as the “intelligence war,” saying that it was the “only weapon that’s hurting us.”); 2) the communications protocols that the leader in hiding adopted were particularly comprehensive– indeed it was a single person, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who served as bin Laden’s connection to the outside world.  This guaranteed his centrality in the terrorist network, elevating him in operational importance over Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s nominal successor.

The second piece concerns Atiyah: to wit, he was killed recently in another sortie of the “intelligence war.”  What all of this holds for the longevity of al Qaeda is an open question.

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