In the coming days, Western governments will enact further security measures in an attempt to contain the threat to aviation from Al-Qaeda affiliates. But AQAP’s relatively unfettered existence in Yemen continues to pose a international threat. It seems that the group currently lacks the resources to maintain any significant tempo for international operations. It has carried out two attacks in 10 months, both of which are sophisticated and ambitious, but relatively small scale in their execution. It is improbably that it will rapidly develop the capabilities to increase the frequency of attacks of this sort. But AQAP evidently does have the means to be creative and to seek out weak links in security measures in pursuit of a spectacular attack.
For now, intelligence has succeeded where security failed. That will not always be the case. It is certain that AQAP will continue to push at the door while it seeks to build capability inside Western nations. It is likely the group’s innovations will eventually produce a successful large attack against a Western target. That will probably occur in the Gulf region than elsewhere, but the group’s proven preoccupation with aviation, and its developing expertise in deploying concealed high explosives, suggests that its horizons remain firmly international.