Debate Magazine

The World After Osama Bin Laden

Posted on the 08 May 2011 by Shahalexander
The most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden was killed in the attack by US Navy SEALSs in Abbottabad Pakistan on May 2. This is a landmark in the War on Terror, and a heavy blow to terrorist organizations notably Al Qaeda. However, it does not mean the end of Islamic terrorism. As Bin Laden’s hideout was near Pakistani capital Islamabad, relations between Pakistan and the West is straining.
Let me talk about implications to the war in Afghanistan. Liberals such as Gilles Dorronsoro, Associate Member at the French Institute of Anatolian Studies, argues that the United States make use of this chance to talk to the Taliban to get out of this long war, as he thinks it unlikely that things in Afghanistan and Pakistan improve soon (“Bin Laden Death Points to Way out of Trap”; Bloomberg News; May 3, 2011). On the other hand, Ashley Tellis, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, insists that conflicts among local ethnic groups and tribes will be eased only when the United States are sufficiently involved both politically and militarily. He urges Obama to accept field commanders’ advise to maintain the largest possible number of troops in Afghanistan (“Creating New Facts on the Ground”; Carnegie Policy Brief; May 2011).
The key to Western involvement in Afghanistan is how much critical threat Al Qaeda will continue to pose in the Middle East and South Asia. According to BBC, Al Qaeda and its affiliations are determined to launch attack in Pakistan in tribute to Osama, which poses substantial; risks to Afganistan, Pakistan ,and India (“Osama's death: What next for al-Qaeda?”; BBC News; 2 May 2011). Daniel Byman, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, comments that the loss of charismatic and unifying personality like bin Laden has given a tremendous damage to Al Qaeda (“What Next for Al Qaeda?”; Brookings Opinion; May 2, 2011). However, hardly any experts see that the War on Terror is over.
Frederick Kagan presents a concise viewpoint to understand global terrorism after bin Laden. Though the killing of Osama is an important achievement, Al Qaeda has been weakened. Since the surge in Iraq by the Bush administration, they lost their franchises there. Also, he says that they are losing in Afghanistan. However, he warns that premature retreat from the War on Terror by the United States and its allies will allow remaining Al Qaeda leaders to find another franchise somewhere else (“Bin Laden, No More”; National Review Online Symposium; May 3, 2011). Fouad Ajami, Professor of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, argues furthermore that bin Laden was a loser, rejected in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also says that bin Laden was killed when his jihadist legacy was being eclipsed in the Arab Spring (“Osama Bin Laden, Weak Horse”; Wall Street Journal; May 3, 2011).
British experts express almost the same views as those of Americans. Paul Cornish, Head of International Security Programme at Chatham House, comments that symbolic effect of the death of the most notorious murderer cannot be underestimated, and perils of jihadists in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya have become less dreadful (“Osama bin Laden: Gone but not Forgotten”; Chatham House Comment; 3 May 2011). Of course, jihadist threats have not been wiped out. Xenia Dormandy, Senior Fellow at the Chatham House, warns the US Congress not to cut resources invested in this war simply for the sake of fiscal austerity (“Death of Osama bin Laden: The Threat Remains”; Chatham House Comment; 2 May 2011).
At present, Pakistan is an impending problem. The discovery of bin Laden in Abbottabad is strengthening distrusts to Pakistan among American policymakers. Since the hideout was close to military garrisons, the United States doubts whether Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence sheltered. Both American and Pakistani officials are puzzled with this (“Amid Skepticism, Pakistan Calculates Its Response”; New York Times; May 2, 2011). British leaders are also shocked to hear this news. Since the fall of Pervez Musharraf, UK-Pakistani counterterrorism ties have deepened under President Asif Al Zardari. In order to overturn a drawback in bilateral relations, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistani High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, announced that the Pakistani government had no information about bin Laden before the attack by US SEALs (“MP 'shocked' at bin Laden Pakistan discovery”; Independent; 2 May 2011).
The vital issue is bin Laden’s secret network in Pakistan. John Brennan, Counterterrorism Advisor to President Obama, questions that bin Laden had some support system in Pakistan. Pakistan’s position in counterterrorism is delicate and complicated. While Pakistani intelligence community could make use of bin Laden threat to demand US military aid, a stable democracy in Afghanistan having close ties with India can encircle Pakistan (”American secrecy lays bare deep distrust of its Pakistani 'allies'”; Independent; 3 May, 2011). In view of Western criticism and suspicion, Husain Haqqani, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, appeared in CNN to admit that Osama bin Laden had support system in Pakistan. However, Haqqani denied that the Pakistani government knew Osama hiding in its territory. In addition, he emphasized Pakistan’ contribution to the War on Terror in arresting terrorist leaders such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh (“Osama had support system in Pak: Haqqani”; Hindu; May 3, 2011).
The successful attack to Osama bin Laden is a symbolic and great achievement. However, there are critical problems to be resolved. Considering connections with Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals, secret support system of terrorism is a foremost threat to global security. In the past, Pakistan was criticized for notorious Khan Network, tied to Iran, North Korea, and Libya. Also, state sponsorship to radicals must be investigated. As I mentioned in the last post, Iran has connections with Al Qaeda. It supports Shiite radicals like Hezzbolah in Lebanon and Bahrain to overturn pro-Western regimes and wipe out Israel. Those issues are more dreadful than revenge attacks in tribute to Osama.

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