Al-Qaeda’s core in Pakistan exerts less control over its affiliated groups and the CIA’s campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan has decimated the group’s leadership. Al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia have also suffered significant losses as a result of U.S. and allied countries’ counterterrorism operations over the past three years. As a result, many counterterrorism officials believe the chances of a large-scale, catastrophic terrorist attack by al-Qaeda or an al-Qaeda-affiliated or -inspired organization occurring in the United States are small.
At the same time, however, al-Qaeda and allied groups today are situated in more places than on September 11, 2001. They maintain a presence in some 16 different theatres of operation?compared with half as many as recently as five years ago. Although some of these operational environments are less amenable than others (South Asia, Southeast Asia), a few have been the sites of revival and resuscitation (Iraq and North Africa) or of expansion (Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Syria).