"I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden" a resolute looking President Obama announced to the world. America had violently dealt with another Public Enemy ala Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger. The moment smacks of frontier justice, but it was the only choice given the alternative of a long, drawn out trial and probable execution. Once the hoopla dies down, America must go back to addressing its growing 14 trillion dollar national debt and chronic 9% unemployment rate. Progress on cutting the debt and reducing unemployment will count more towards Obama’s reelection prospects than a dead Bin Laden.
That Bin Laden had to be a US kill was a foregone conclusion. He was the ideological mastermind of 9/11 and had the blood of over 3000 innocent Americans on his hands. Americans had to extract their pound of flesh and did so in brutal fashion. Elite Navy Seals armed to the teeth flew at night in radar evading stealth helicopters and crossed into a sovereign allied nation; shooting their target, returning with the body and burying at sea. This was an operation which will certainly be the basis of future multi million dollar grossing Hollywood thrillers.
The global reaction to Bin Laden’s elimination was extremely positive. The muted reaction in the Muslim world to Bin Laden's demise is a particularly telling sign that the nihilist and divisive Al Qaeda ideology is generally discredited. The debate will continue whether Bin Laden’s "sprawling mansion" in Abbottabad, Pakistan was an active command and control center used to run Al Qaeda, or the last refuge of an old terrorist has-been passing the time watching videos of past "glories".
For Bin Laden, using Pakistan to go the mattresses like a Mafioso was operationally completely understandable. It is well known that segments of Pakistan’s population sympathize and would serve as a sanctuary and support base for Al Qaeda and international terrorism. What is not clear is the current Washington mantra that Bin Laden evaded capture for years thanks to the complicity of Pakistani authorities including its vaunted intelligence agency the ISI.
Official government complicity makes no sense as President Zardari probably passed up addressing a joint session of the US Congress and being feted in Washington as a hero if Pakistan had assisted in identifying Bin Laden’s location and supported a US operation to capture or kill him. Instead, Pakistan is being berated daily in Washington as an unreliable ally, unworthy of future aid or an Obama visit. Zardari and army chief General Kayani must be cursing their luck for not getting some credit for killing OBL, even at the cost of a sure terrorist blowback.
Similarly, Pakistan’s senior security establishment had nothing to gain from sheltering Bin Laden, as he could only be considered a distraction and an embarrassment. He was of no possible strategic value to Pakistan, now or later; unlike Haqqani and the Afghan Taliban sheltered in North Waziristan, who in the ISI’s assessment will play a role in consolidating Pakistan’s position in the Afghanistan end game. This is also consistent with Pakistan's unstated policy to crack down on foreign fighters and terrorists, while maintaining an ambivalent attitude towards jihadi groups who might be of use in Afghanistan or Kashmir at a later date.
We also know that in the past several major Al Qaeda terrorists includingand have been captured in Pakistan with the ISI`s cooperation. These terrorists and others were turned over by Pakistan to the US for reward money apparently in the millions. In this context, the $25m reward on Bin Laden`s head would have been too tempting for the ISI to pass up.
Bin Laden must have had an unofficial support network in Pakistan including retired or serving lower echelons of the ISI. It is certainly incompetence on the part of the senior security establishment not to investigate that Bin Laden was probably hiding in an urban area in Pakistan where so many other senior Al Qaeda terrorists have been captured in the past. These security lapses should be fully investigated and those accountable should be punished.
Where do we go now that Bin Laden is in dustbin of history? We know that the fight against Al Qaeda and its affiliates is far from over and the world needs to remain vigilant and determined in its fight against terrorism. The United States has an opportunity to reduce its casualties and fiscal strain by ending the Iraq and Afghanistan engagements in a realistic time frame. The Muslim world should build on "Arab Spring" by recognizing that its primary enemies are despotic rulers and undemocratic systems not the West. Pakistanis being the worst global victims of terrorism must act now to prevent terrorists from using the country as a safe haven; consequences of inaction at this stage may be too horrible to contemplate.