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The hunt for Osama Bin Laden is akin to a houndog chasing a car. Once you catch it, then what? The future of terrorism doesn’t instantly dismantle as soon as Bin Laden is caught “dead or alive” (as our old President used to say). So meet the heir apparent:

There is no doubt that when Bin Laden and Zawahiri die or are captured, al Qaeda’s global movement will look to Abu Yahya to seize the reins. He has become the obvious heir apparent. But with Abu Yahya at its helm, al Qaeda is certain to become a far more frightening enemy.

Al Qaeda’s primarily Egyptian senior leadership founded and built the group on principles of elitism and secrecy. The leaders saw themselves as the vanguard, the tip of Islam’s last and only spear. Their doctrine was restrictive and exclusionary. Their bureaucratic structure was stifling and micromanaging. They saw themselves as terrorists’ terrorists, and acted the part.

A lifelong student with an easy smile and a gift for gab, Abu Yahya sees the world quite differently. For him, al Qaeda’s fight is not just about unseating Arab governments or pushing U.S. troops out of the Middle East. In this paradigm, al Qaeda is first and foremost an intellectual and religio-ideological insurgency — not just a terrorist group.

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