WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Only two people are left in al-Qaida leadership ranks, and their removal would mean the final defeat of the terror group, U.S. experts said.
The organization -- which planned the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States that killed about 3,000 under Osama bin Laden's leadership -- now has only Ayman al-Zawahiri, the new leader, and his No. 2 Abu Yahya al-Libi, who are regarded as "high-value" targets of the CIA's anti-al-Qaida drone campaign in Pakistan, U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence officials told The Washington Post.
U.S. forces killed bin Laden in May in an attack on his compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
The U.S. officials told the Post lower-level fighters and other insurgent groups remain targets of Predator drone surveillance and strikes.
Al-Qaida has been losing its leadership ranks even as it considered relocating to other places. However, those plans were largely shelved as other destinations were seen as either unreachable or offering no greater security than their Pakistani location, the officials told the Post.
Currently, al-Qaida's Yemen subsidiary is considered a greater threat.
With al-Qaida's weakened position, the CIA faces questions about its deployment of resources, with its Pakistani station being one of the largest, the Post said.
Despite the threat in Yemen, the agency is not willing to move its assets from Pakistan, as CIA director Gen. David Petraeus and other senior officials think their priority is to remove the agency's base in Pakistan, the report said.
"Now is not the time to let up the pressure," said a U.S. official familiar with drone program.
Other officials warned al-Qaida will remain a major security threat for years, the report said, adding the hunt for Zawahiri and Libi has intensified.