We've heard this before, but The Washington Post has an attention-grabbing headline this morning: "U.S. officials believe al-Qaeda on brink of collapse." More specifically, The Post cites closed-door meetings between counter terrorism officials and says that "a widespread view at the CIA and other agencies [is] that a relatively small number of additional blows could effectively extinguish the Pakistan-based organization." Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of the Navy SEAL team was referred to as "the turning point."
The newspaper notes the "cumulative effect" of successful drone strikes, the elimination of "generations" of leaders and a rally-the-troops quote from Leon Panetta ("we're within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaeda"). But it also adds a necessary caveat: "U.S. officials said that al-Qaeda might yet rally and that even its demise would not end the terrorist threat." A striking quote from an unnamed senior official:
Beyond bin Laden, "we have eliminated a number of generations of leaders," said the senior U.S. counterterrorism official. "They have not had a successful operation in a long time. You at some point have to ask yourself, 'What else do we have to do?'"
Update: read more caveats to the Post's report.