US officials believe that Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan are providing spiritual and strategic guidance to the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Some are speculating that the bin Laden audiotape released last week may have been a signal for AQAP to unleash its foiled package bomb plot, though others tell the Wall Street Journal that it’s too soon to tell if there’s a direct link.
While Anwar al-Awlaki has gotten the most attention, officials say other leaders of AQAP may be more important. The group’s top commander, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, is a former aide and protégé to bin Laden. “As things have gotten tougher for them, it makes sense for them to work more closely together,” said Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence committee. They are “communicating more with each other, influencing the direction of each other and coordinating activities.”