The [Pakistani] official said bin Laden had been “marginalized” by his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who helped bin Laden found al Qaeda in 1988 and led its operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He added that bin Laden had been sidelined because he no longer had the funds to support al Qaeda operations and that his popularity in the network was slipping. “They had parted ways some six years ago,” he said.
Portraying bin Laden as sidelined within al Qaeda could help Pakistan’s reputation in the aftermath of his death by implying that he had little to do with al Qaeda or its recent attacks—suggesting that Pakistan’s failure to find him wasn’t such a significant lapse. Pakistani officials have expressed embarrassment that the U.S. found bin Laden in Pakistan and are probing the intelligence failure.
U.S. officials say they have not heard of a split between the two men…
Mr. Zawahiri, 59, is viewed as bin Laden’s accepted successor. According to al Qaeda documents assembled by U.S. researchers, leadership succession inside the terror group is clearly laid out: The group’s deputy will assume control if the leader is captured or killed.