The death of Nasir al-Wahayshi who led the al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula was a big blow to the outfit. The AQAP which suffered a major set back in the event of his death is now desperately trying to replace him and a hunt is already on.
Nasir al-Wahayshi was designated as a General Manager of the AQAP. A general manager in the al-Qaeda is a powerful position and he is responsible for almost every activity of the outfit in the region that has been allotted to him.
The al-Qaeda leadership has zeroed in on his replacement and is most likely to rope in Abu Mohammad al-Joulani to take over as the General Manager of the AQAP. At the moment, it is the overall chief of the al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri who has decided to multi task and hold the post of General Manager until Joulani is ready to take over.
Joulani is an expert at Syria:
Abu Mohammad al-Joulani currently is heading the Jabrat al-Nusra an affiliate of the al-Qaeda in Syria. He does play a very important role there has been solely responsible for recruitments and also attacks on the Syrian regime. He is the most likely choice to head the AQAP.
However before Zawahiri decided to hand over the position of General Manager to Joulani officially there are some aspects that he would need to consider. Joulani is leading the Jabrat al-Nusra specifically in Syria.
Giving him an addition responsibility would weaken the war in Syria. Moreover there is also a need for the rest of the AQAP members to recognize Joulani as their leader.
It is extremely important that he will be able to lead the force with the same amount of grit and charisma that Wahayshi did.
Yemen most crucial:
If the al-Qaeda continues to survive today it is largely due to his successful campaign in Yemen. Has lost ground in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
However, in the case of Yemen the al-Qaeda has managed to hold its own and today is the most powerful terrorist outfit.
However, the al-Qaeda could also thank the Saudis who very systematically bombed the Houthi rebels from the air and very conveniently decided not to send their armed forces to hold the ground. It was the al-Qaeda which benefitted from the bombings.
Now this being the scenario, it is likely that the al-Qaeda would put its best men at Yemen. This is a front of theirs's which the ISIS has not been able to penetrate as yet and the al-Qaeda would go that extra mile to ensure that the bastion remains theirs.
In such an event, the man best suited for the job at the moment is Joulani.
Joulani not only would have the role of leading the fight in Yemen, but like Wahayshi, he would have to manage the affiliates of the al-Qaeda as well.
A general manager of the AQAP would have a broader role in both micro and macro management and for the al-Qaeda Joulani is the man best suited for the job.
Looking for regional partners:
The al-Qaeda in its new strategy would drive more towards regional partners. It realizes that it lost the game in Afghanistan after most of the regional forces especially in the tribal belts switched sides and joined the ISIS.
It is the regional powers which provide the crucial ground intelligence and they are also well versed with the terrain.
Groups such as the al-Qaeda and the ISIS while relying on regional forces can only provide that extra advantage in terms of fightes and also finances.
However, when looking for a new leader to head the AQAP, the al-Qaeda would need to change its appointment pattern. It is usually a man from within the al-Qaeda who is chosen to head such an important job.
In the case of Joulani they would need to break away from that tradition and go in for a leader who infact heads the Nusrat al-Jabra which is an affiliate of the the al-Qaeda.
Will Zawahiri break tradition and go with a leader from an affiliate. If he needs to survive in this war, then he cannot afford to stick to the basics and would have to do something out of the box soon.