Death of Osama Bin Laden, the Security Turning Point Two Years Later

PHOTO: Osama bin Laden holds a press conference in Khost, Afghanistan in this 1998 file photo.
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It has now been two years since U.S. Navy SEALs dropped into a dark compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, and killed Osama bin Laden. It was an event that stopped the nation in its tracks and was seen as a turning point in America's fight to stop al Qaeda's terror network.

In those two years the al Qaeda terror network has become so decentralized that its affiliates in Yemen and elsewhere now pose a greater direct threat to the U.S. Though weakened, counterterrorism analysts believe al Qaeda will continue to inspire potential Islamic extremists for years to come.

The raid was seen as a turning point in the war on terror and provided a "treasure trove" of documents that revealed the surprising degree of operational control bin Laden still had over the terror network.

The details of the bin Laden raid have since been portrayed in the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" and in a book written by one of the Navy SEALs involved in the mission to kill the world's most wanted man.

Bin Laden's death was undoubtedly a severe blow to al Qaeda, but counterterrorism analysts continue to see the group as a potential threat to the U.S., though its role has evolved.

"The threat from Al Qaeda and the potential for a massive coordinated attack on the United States may be diminished, but the jihadist movement is more diffuse," James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) told Congress in April. "Lone wolves, domestic extremists and jihad-inspired affiliated groups are still determined to attack Western interests."

Read More: ABC's Full Coverage on the raid and death of Osama bin Laden.

Surprisingly, the terror threat posed by al Qaeda and other terror groups did not top this year's version of the Worldwide Threat Assessment prepared by the DNI. It was the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that the terror threat was not ranked as the number one threat to U.S. national security.

"Senior personnel losses in 2012, amplifying losses and setbacks since 2008, have degraded core al Qaeda to a point that the group is probably unable to carry out complex, large-scale attacks in the West," said Clapper. Those losses have come from the CIA's controversial drone strike program in Pakistan's tribal areas where al Qaeda leaders are believed to continue to operate.

While "core al Qaeda" has been weakened, its affiliate in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has pursued attacks on U.S. interests like the unsuccessful underwear bomber attack in 2009. A similar attack was thwarted last year around the time of the one year anniversary of bin Laden's death.

The threat posed by AQAP led to an expansion of the CIA's drone program into Yemen targeting the group's leaders including American born Islamic cleric Anwar al Awlaki.

Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University, says bin Laden's death in May 2011 was regarded "as a decisive corner having been turned in the war on terror" and agrees that it hastened the terror network's decline. However, he is concerned by what he calls the "rise in al Qaedism" whose message of Islamic militancy targeting the U.S. has resonated in places like northern Africa where last September's deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was believed to have been carried out by al Qaeda supporters.

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