While the 9/11 commission described al-Yazid as a "chief financial officer," in recent years he had ascended into a higher position, with his hand in virtually everything al Qaeda did. "He has an intimate understanding not only of the books," said a U.S. official, "but also how the money is being spent, which departments are operating correctly and incorrectly, how am I amortizing my costs, etc."
Following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Yazid fled Afghanistan and hid, finally re-emerging in 2007 when al Qaeda announced his position leading the group in Afghanistan.
Since then, he has been a consistent face of al Qaeda, appearing in dozens of videos and audio-tapes, excoriating American troops and calling for more attacks against the West.
At the time of his return to the battlefield, analysts and experts noted that Yazid was chosen because of his strong relationship with (cut) Mullah Omar and his excellent rapport with the Afghan Pashtun fighters under Omar.
His promotion was seen as an effort by bin Laden to strengthen ties with the Taliban and refocus efforts on the war inside Afghanistan.
But as he rose in the ranks, the United States began to kill mid-level al Qaeda leaders, forcing Yazid to become less strategic and more tactical, according to a U.S. official. "He has to be in touch with people, has to take the meetings, he has to send out the messages. And that exposed him," the official said.
As al Qaeda's leaders have been targeted, the group has morphed, in part by helping and embedding with local terror groups. A U.S. official compared how al Qaeda currently operates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region to a venture capital firm. Al Qaeda has found groups to "invest" in, helping them facilitate, finance, train, and organize. Yazid was at the center of that effort, a "conduit" between al Qaeda and groups such as the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, as well as the Taliban, according to the official. The official compared Yazid to the venture capital firm's "angel investor" who has made some "very wise investments" in certain groups in recent years.
U.S. authorities have announced Yazid's death on more than one occasion before, only to have Yazid appear in a video and boast that he was still alive.
Although al Qaeda will have already replaced Yazid on the organizational chart, his experience and veteran leadership will be difficult to replace.
Yazid's death does not mark the end of al Qaeda nor suggest U.S. forces are any closer to finding bin Laden and Al Zawahiri.
But it does mark the end of the line of al Qaeda operatives who forged their skills in the Afghan jihad against Russia in the 1980's.
And it suggests that al Qaeda is currently made up and led on a daily basis by a much younger group of terrorists, ones who gained their experience after 9/11. The newer leaders, analysts say, could prove more radical, less mature, and perhaps degrade al Qaeda's global aspirations.
Additional reporting by Martha Raddatz Click Here for the Blotter Homepage.