With the killing of al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi last week, al-Qaeda is down to just eight hardcore leaders in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, down from dozens a few years ago, reports Reuters in a look at the once-formidable group. Finances have dried up, too, and many members of the group have sold their weapons to get the cash to go home. "Imagine. They used to travel in Land Cruisers and double-cabin pickup trucks a few years ago," says a Taliban commander. "Now, they are riding motorcycles due to lack of resources."
Despite al-Qaeda taking such a drubbing, all is not good news in that troubled region. The Pakistan Taliban and other militant groups continue to infest northwestern Pakistan, attacking the army and police and organizing a string of suicide bombings. But as the force behind 9/11, it's al-Qaeda that sits atop the US' kill list. "The worst job you can get these days is to be a deputy leader in al-Qaeda," says Leon Panetta. Most of those remaining are hidden deep in North Waziristan, where a young population, scarce jobs, and a helpless government create a dangerous breeding ground for more insurgents. "It would be a mistake to conclude there is no one on the bench," says a US official. "It's a thinning bench, but there are still bad guys, with bad aspirations in al-Qaeda's core group in Pakistan."