Who will take over for Osama bin Laden as the head of Al-Qaeda? And will he be able to hold together the organization?
My colleague John Schindler gives his evaluations (in the New York Daily News):
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the chief ideologist of the Salafi jihad movement, is old, appears tired in most of the videos we have seen in recent years and is dogmatic and long-winded. He is considered at best a has-been by the younger generation of jihadists, at worst a bore. ...
Another possibility is Anwar al-Awlaki, the verbose sensation from New Mexico who has been the American-accented voice of the jihad coming out of Yemen. Certainly his following is impressive, judged by YouTube hits, but his operational experience is nil. He is a far from an ideal choice for an organization devoted to waging holy war by the sword.
The converse problem lies before Saif al-Adel, a former Egyptian Army officer and longtime fighter. While he is well known among jihadists for his strategic writings, which display a degree of sophistication that ought to be troubling to the West -- he had the sense to counsel against 9/11, knowing it would provoke a terrible American wrath -- he has been on the run virtually since that day. ...
One who combines both media savvy and combat experience -- yet has been overlooked by many commentators -- is Abu Yahya al-Libi, a relatively young warrior with a great deal of jihad under his belt. Unlike most Al Qaeda higher-ups, he has substantial theological training and real media presence. His videos are eloquent and popular with the ranks. He also is a combat veteran of impressive stature.
And writing in The National Interest, he adds another contender to the list:
As al-Qaeda searches for a new leader, one of the candidates is reported to be Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani jihadist with a low public profile but much operational experience, including plans to attack the United States directly. Kashmiri has been waging holy war since the 1980s and has a long relationship with the ISI, reportedly dating to the struggle against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He faces indictment in the U.S. for his close links to David Headley. While it is unlikely that al-Qaeda, whose leadership to date has been heavily Saudi and Egyptian, would want a Pakistani to take over, Kashmiri's extensive experience would undeniably help keep the global jihad going.