WASHINGTON--The killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. Special Forces on Sunday will set Al Qaeda on a "path of decline," a senior Obama administration said in a briefing just after midnight, leading the the "eventual destruction" of the terrorists.
"There's also no doubt that the death of Osama bin Laden marks the single greatest victory in the U.S.-led campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda. It is a major and essential step in bringing about al Qaeda's eventual destruction," the official said.
The official went on to add:
"Bin Laden was al Qaeda's only .... commander in its 22-year history, and was largely responsible for the organization's mystique, its attraction among violent jihadists, and its focus on America as a terrorist target. As the only al Qaeda leader whose authority was universally respected, he also maintained his cohesion, and his likely successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is far less charismatic and not as well respected within the organization, according to comments from several captured al Qaeda leaders. He probably will have difficulty maintaining the loyalty of bin Laden's largely Gulf Arab followers.
"Although al Qaeda may not fragment immediately, the loss of bin Laden puts the group on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse.
"And finally, it's important to note that it is most fitting that bin Laden's death comes at a time of great movement towards freedom and democracy that is sweeping the Arab world. He stood in direct opposition to what the greatest men and women throughout the Middle East and North Africa are risking their lives for: individual rights and human dignity."