PAKISTAN TOOK the unusual step Monday of announcing publicly that it had captured, in conjunction with the CIA, a top al-Qaeda leader and two others described as senior operatives.
The arrests are important, not only because they take three bad guys off the board, but because they demonstrate that the levels of trust and cooperation between the two nations' security services have returned to something close to normal, after a time when it appeared they might break off altogether.
That relationship is vital because the Afghan-Pakistan border harbors Islamic extremists implacably opposed to both Washington and Islamabad.
The Pakistanis were humiliated and infuriated when, without receiving advance notice of the raid, U.S. SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, who embarrassingly was found living in a Pakistani garrison town -- his compound, in fact, was only a few blocks from one of the country's premier military academies.
That came amid Pakistani complaints, which conceivably could have been made for public consumption to placate local critics of the U.S. role, that the CIA was striking too often and too carelessly with armed drones.
But in a statement following the arrests, the Pakistani military praised "the strong, historic intelligence relationship" between the two services and the U.S. reciprocated with a White House spokesman calling it "an example of the long-standing partnership between the United States and Pakistan in fighting terrorism."
Unless al-Qaeda has deep reserves we don't know about, the world's former leading terrorist organization is a leaderless, struggling shadow of itself, reduced to a mere bit player in the struggle to remake the Muslim world of North Africa and the Mideast.
Bin Laden was killed in May, and last month his designated No. 2, Atiya Abd al-Rahman, was killed in a missile strike. Pakistan's prize catch, Younis al-Mauritani, is said to have been charged by bin Laden with mounting strikes against U.S. economic interests, in the U.S. and abroad, such as oil and gas pipelines, power-generating dams and oil tankers.
Intelligence recovered at bin Laden's hideout showed that the terrorist leader was desperate to launch a high-profile strike against the United States somewhere around the 9/11 anniversary to prove that his organization was still relevant.
Given that U.S. and Pakistani interests in the region don't always overlap, there are likely to be other fallings-out, hopefully only temporarily, but this latest welcome cooperation comes as the demise of the original al-Qaeda is in sight.
Unhappily, there are certain to be other fanatics eager to take its place.