“It would be a mistake for anyone to conclude there is no one on the bench,” said one U.S. official familiar with counterterrorism strategy, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s a thinning bench, but there are still bad guys, with bad aspirations in al-Qaida’s core group in Pakistan. However, these individuals are not as capable and don’t have the profile or following in the wider extremist movement that Abu Yahya or his predecessor, Abu Atiyah, had.”…

Those identified as potential next-generation successors are:

— Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah. The 36-year-old Saudi is known as “Jaffar the Pilot” because he has a pilot’s license. Reportedly the director of operations for al-Qaida. Shukrijumah spent his teenage years in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Broward County, Fla., where he earned a degree in computer science. He is reported to have had roles in the 2009 plot to bomb the New York City subway and was put on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list a year later. He has been sought by the U.S. since 2003…

— Adam Gadahn. A 33-year-old American known as Azzam al Amriki, or “Azzam the American,” Gadahn, formerly regarded as an al-Qaida propagandist, is now viewed as a strategist. Materials found in bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound included correspondence between the al-Qaida leader and the American jihadi. “Bin Laden took his mail,” the U.S. official said of Gadahn. “He’s not just a propagandist –more a strategist– clearly someone who is not a crazy person. There are a number of people who were there on 9-11. That clearly gives him some standing.” Gadahn has been charged in California with treason, a capital crime, and giving material aid to terrorism.