Letters discovered in the Abbottabad compound revealed bin Laden had initially argued against the push to capture territory in Yemen fearing, rightly as it turned out, the group would not be strong enough to hold onto it, but Wuhayshi proceeded anyway. Bin Laden's opposition eventually softened.
Wuhayshi himself set up his headquarters in the town of Jaar in Yemen's southern tribal areas. For 16 months, al Qaeda effectively governed the area, taking on responsibility for electricity, water and other utilities, but also inflicting brutal medieval justice on those it judged to have broken Islamic law.
Wuhayshi was the commander at the heart of it all and his rule over territory in the heart of the Arab world further enhanced his reputation in jihadist circles worldwide.
According to former group insiders -- in much the same way as bin Laden -- he was extremely popular with rank and file al Qaeda fighters. He projected the same softly-spoken humble air as his mentor.
In spring 2012, the Yemeni military launched a major offensive which eventually drove al Qaeda out of several towns of the tribal areas of Yemen. But most of the group's leadership, including Wuhayshi, fled into the countryside and regrouped. In recent months, the group has been responsible for a rising number of bombings against Yemeni security services.
Is a revenge factor at work?
This week's terror threat warning may signal Wuhayshi has decided to attach greater priority to hitting U.S. and Western interests, which would be a worrying scenario for U.S. counter-terrorism officials because of the group's still significant capabilities, access to resources and expertise. Al Qaeda affiliates throughout the Middle East also have a new recruiting tool because of rising anger among the group's supporters because of what they perceive to be a U.S.-backed military coup in Egypt.
Wuhayshi's appointment as al Qaeda's de facto No. 2 will increase the pressure on him to show results in targeting U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Letters discovered from Abbottabad indicated that his boss Zawahiri disagreed with bin Laden over the relative priority that should be given to attacking the U.S. homeland.
According to the Washington Post, the correspondence indicated the Egyptian believed launching attacks against the U.S. interests in the Middle East was a more effective way of removing U.S. support for secular regimes in the region.
Wuhayshi likely also has several other motivations for ordering a strike now on U.S. interests.
In recent months U.S. drone strikes have killed several senior AQAP, including Said al Shehri, Wuhayshi's deputy last winter, and the group has signaled it wants revenge.
A successful high-profile attack may also re-energize the group after the setbacks of losing control of territory in Yemen's tribal areas last year.