Al Qaeda's central leadership and its ability to direct operations from beyond its base in Pakistan has diminished, but its affiliate organizations, along with other terror groups, have grown more dangerous, according to a new report from the State Department.
In its annual report on terrorism trends, the State Department said ongoing efforts to degrade and eliminate the organization led by Ayman al-Zawahiri have "accelerated the decentralization" of al Qaeda. But those steps have led to groups like its affiliate in Yemen, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to become more autonomous and focus on their own goals of attacking the United States and other western governments.
Zawahiri has experienced difficulty in commanding influence and ordering directives throughout the group's affiliate structure, the report said, noting an increase in violent attacks by affiliate groups against civilian populations in their areas of operations.
According to the report, al Qaeda in Yemen is among the most lethal of the affiliate groups and "continues to pose the most significant threat to the United States and U.S. citizens and interests in Yemen."
The group's leader, Nasir Wahishi, recently elevated to the No. 2 position in al Qaeda's larger network, carried out more than 100 attacks in Yemen in 2013, and continues its focus of directing attacks at the U.S. homeland like the failed 2009 attempt to take down a jetliner over Detroit with the "Underwear Bomber."
The group has been in the crosshairs of the Yemeni government and U.S. counterterror efforts and was the focus of several military operations against its leadership following the release of a video that showed a large gathering of the group and its senior leadership.