During and after this transition, the movement will continue to be a dangerous transnational force, regardless of the status of core al-
Qa‟ida, its affiliates, and its allies. Terrorist groups and
individuals sympathetic to the jihadist movement will have access to the recruits, financing, arms and explosives, and safe havens needed to execute operations.
A key challenge for the West during this transition will be conducting aggressive CT operations while not exacerbating anti-Western global agendas and galvanizing new fronts in the movement.
The CBRN Threat
We assess that a mass attack by foreign terrorist groups involving a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapon in the United States is unlikely in the next year, as a result of intense counterterrorism pressure. Nevertheless, given the compartmented nature of CBRN programs, the spread of technological information, and the minimal infrastructure needed for some CBRN efforts, the Intelligence Community remains alert to the CBRN threat. Although we assess that a mass attack is unlikely, we worry about a limited CBR attack in the United States or against our interests overseas in the next year because of the interest expressed in such a capability by some foreign groups, such as al-
Qa‟ida in the Arabian Peninsula‟s (AQAP).
The IC judges that lone actors abroad or in the United States
including criminals and homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) inspired by terrorist leaders or literature advocating use of CBR materials
are capable of conducting at least limited attacks in the next year, but we assess the anthrax threat to the United States by lone actors is low.
Qa’ida in Decline
With Usama bin Ladin‟s death, the global jihadist movement lost its most iconic and
inspirational leader, even for disaffected members of the group.
We do not assess that al-
Qa„ida‟s new leader, Ayman al
-Zawahiri, will change al-
strategic direction, but most al-
Qa‟ida members find Zawahiri‟s
leadership style less compelling
than bin Ladin‟s image as a holy man and warrior, and will not offe
r him the deference they gave bin Ladin. The death or capture of prominent al-
Qa‟ida figures since bin Ladin‟s death has shrunk the layer
of top lieutenants directly under Zawahiri. These losses, combined with the long list of earlier losses since CT operations intensified in 2008, lead us to assess that core al-
Qa‟ida‟s ability to perform a
variety of functions
including preserving leadership and conducting external operations
has weakened significantly.
We judge that al-
Qa„ida‟s losses are so substant
ial and its operating environment so restricted that a new group of leaders, even if they could be found, would have difficulty integrating into the organization and compensating for mounting losses.