Al-Qaeda on brink of collapse: report

Washington: More than two months after the killing of its leader Osama bin Laden, America`s counter-terrorism officials believe that al-Qaeda is on the brink of collapse.

"US counter-terrorism officials are increasingly convinced that the killing of Osama bin Laden and the toll of seven years of CIA drone strikes have pushed al?Qaeda to the brink of collapse," The Washington Post reported quoting US officials.

"The assessment reflects a widespread view at the CIA and other agencies that a relatively small number of additional blows could effectively extinguish the Pakistan-based organisation that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks ? an outcome that was seen as a distant prospect for much of the past decade," it said.

According to the daily, US officials said that al-Qaeda might yet rally and that even its demise would not end the terrorist threat, which is increasingly driven by radicalised individuals as well as aggressive affiliates.

Indeed, officials said that al?Qaeda`s offshoot in Yemen is now seen as a greater counter terrorism challenge than the organisation`s traditional base, it said.

Nevertheless, the top US national security officials now allude to a potential finish line in the fight against al-Qaeda, a notion they played down before bin Laden was killed by US forces in a May 2 raid in Pakistan.

Incoming defence secretary Leon E Panetta declared during a recent visit to Afghanistan that we are within the reach of strategically defeating al-Qaeda and senior CIA official have expressed similar views in classified intelligence reports and close-door briefings on Capitol Hill, official said.

"US officials said that bin Laden`s death was a turning point, in part because he remained active in managing the network and keeping it focused on mounting attacks against the United States, but also because his charisma was key to al-Qaeda`s brand and the proliferation of franchises overseas," it said.

Largely because of bin Laden?s death, "we can even see the end of al-Qaeda as the global, borderless, united jihad," a US official was quoted as saying.

Officials also point to the cumulative effect of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. "Missiles fired by the unmanned aircraft have killed at least 1,200 militants since 2004, including 224 this year, according to figures compiled by the New America Foundation. Many of the strikes have been aimed at al-Qaeda allies also accused of attacking American targets; those allies include the Haqqani network and the Pakistani Taliban," the daily reported.