Al-Qaeda has confirmed the death of Osama Bin Laden but has not yet officially named a successor, indicating that the senior leadership is having difficulty communicating and possibly a reluctance to embrace Ayman al-Zawahiri as their new chief. New figures will fill the leadership gap left by Bin Laden’s absence and the inevitable arrests and deaths that will follow, but it is unclear if they can unite behind a common figurehead and strategy.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, as the second-in-command of Al-Qaeda, is likely to become Bin Laden’s official replacement. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has already pledged allegiance to him, but he has had conflicts with other members of Al-Qaeda and lacks the allure and charisma of Osama Bin Laden. As one senior U.S. intelligence official explained, “It is of course an anathema for Al-Qaeda to hold free and fair elections, but if such elections were held, al-Zawahiri would most likely have a fight on his hands.”