Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bin Laden's Death and the Implications for Jihadism

Via STRATFOR (Security Weekly) -

U.S. President Barack Obama appeared in a hastily arranged televised address the night of May 1, 2011, to inform the world that U.S. counterterrorism forces had located and killed Osama bin Laden. The operation, which reportedly happened in the early hours of May 2 local time, targeted a compound in Abbottabad, a city located some 31 miles north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. The nighttime raid resulted in a brief firefight that left bin Laden and several others dead. A U.S. helicopter reportedly was damaged in the raid and later destroyed by U.S. forces. Obama reported that no U.S. personnel were lost in the operation. After a brief search of the compound, the U.S. forces left with bin Laden’s body and presumably anything else that appeared to have intelligence value. From Obama’s carefully scripted speech, it would appear that the U.S. conducted the operation unilaterally with no Pakistani assistance — or even knowledge.

As evidenced by the spontaneous celebrations that erupted in Washington, New York and across the United States, the killing of bin Laden has struck a chord with many Americans. This was true not only of those who lost family members as a result of the attack, but of those who were vicariously terrorized and still vividly recall the deep sense of fear they felt the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, as they watched aircraft strike the World Trade Center Towers and saw those towers collapse on live television, and then heard reports of the Pentagon being struck by a third aircraft and of a fourth aircraft prevented from being used in another attack when it crashed in rural Pennsylvania. As that fear turned to anger, a deep-seated thirst for vengeance led the United States to invade Afghanistan in October 2001 and to declare a “global war on terrorism.”

Because of this sense of fulfilled vengeance, the death of bin Laden will certainly be one of those events that people will remember, like the 9/11 attacks themselves. In spite of the sense of justice and closure the killing of bin Laden brings, however, his death will likely have very little practical impact on the jihadist movement. More important will be the reaction of the Pakistani government to the operation and the impact it has on U.S.-Pakistani relations.


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