Number of al-Qaeda Leaders Left on US Hit List: 2
Group is all but defeated
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2011 8:54 AM CST
Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's current leader, is seen in a still image from a web posting by al-Qaida's media arm, as-Sahab, Wednesday July 27, 2011.   (AP Photo/IntelCenter)

(Newser) – Al-Qaeda is on the brink of defeat, shriveling even faster than US officials had predicted in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death. The group now consists of just a few hundred fighters, with only two “high-value” targets left on the CIA’s list—leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and his No. 2, Abu Yahya al-Libi, the Washington Post reports. “We have rendered the organization that brought us 9/11 operationally ineffective,” one US counterterrorism official said, adding that al-Qaeda lacked “any of the world-class terrorists they once had.”

That’s led to calls for a shift in focus to Yemen’s more dangerous al-Qaeda offshoot, but David Petraeus wants to extinguish the Pakistan network utterly rather than let it regroup. Al-Qaeda, meanwhile, has considered leaving Pakistan, but has rejected every possible destination. “No one thinks Zawahiri would move,” the counterterror official said. “He’s too prominent. Too settled. Too old.” Many believe Zawahiri lacks the charisma to effectively lead the group—one former analyst called the younger Libi al-Qaeda’s “last best hope for any global resurgence.”
 

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