Election’s over. Now it can be told.
The officials say the terrorist network’s leadership cadre has been “decimated,” with up to a dozen senior and midlevel operatives killed as a result of the strikes and the remaining leaders reeling from the repeated attacks.
“The enemy is really, really struggling,” says one senior U.S. counterterrorism official. “These attacks have produced the broadest, deepest and most rapid reduction in al-Qaida senior leadership that we’ve seen in several years.”…
“In the past, you could take out the No. 3 al-Qaida leader, and No. 4 just moved up to take his place,” says one official. “Well, if you take out No. 3, No. 4 and then 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, it suddenly becomes a lot more difficult to revive the leadership cadre.”
It ain’t all good news — 100 operatives who trained at the camps are thought to be on the loose and the Taliban keeps forcing the U.S. to lower expectations in Afghanistan — but it’s a big deal. See my update to Ed’s post on the airstrike that took out the embassy bombers last month for a round-up of America’s latest, greatest hits. The pace is remarkably consistent: Every two months or so for fully a year now, one of the AQ illuminati has gotten a ticket to meet Allah. Something profound’s happened to our intel capabilities over there but I can only marvel at what it might be. More informants, sure, but how many and how close are they to the top? The more big fish we kill, the more paranoid AQ must be, yet somehow they still haven’t caught whoever it is that’s ratting them out. A French analyst told the LA Times as far back as last May that he suspected the U.S. is using better technology too, a point the NPR story supports in touting the advantages of the new Reaper drones over Predators. And yet … it seems like there’s something bigger going on. Maybe now that The One’s in office and good news is safe to report again (see also Iraq) the media will start sniffing around. Irresponsible exit speculation: Newsweek ran two fascinating stories in the summer of 2007 — not long before the airstrikes picked up — about feuds within Al Qaeda, one supposedly between the “Egyptian” and “Libyan” wings of the group and another between Zawahiri and Osama himself. Are these turds dropping a dime on each other to eliminate their competition?