The elimination of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden vindicates U.S. strategy in the region. It will be seen as a major success for the U.S. and show the world that America will remain committed to hunting down its enemies for as long it takes.
The operation also highlights that Pakistan is truly at the epicenter of global terrorism. The fact that the world’s most wanted terrorist was captured in a major Pakistani city 60 miles from the nation’s capital should silence those Pakistanis who rejected the idea of bin Laden being in the country as a western conspiracy.
It should also strengthen President Obama’s hand in pushing the Pakistanis to continue to take action against other terrorists on their soil.
The details on Pakistan’s involvement in the operation are still unclear. If it was largely a U.S. unilateral operation, there will be many questions on how bin Laden could have resided in a compound in a major Pakistani city close to a military garrison.
Ayman al Zawahiri almost certainly will take over as al-Qaeda’s new chief. Zawahiri had in recent years become both the public voice and operational planner of al-Qaeda. However, since bin Laden was the founder and spiritual head of al-Qaeda, his death will demoralize the ranks of the organization and thus could be a strategic setback for the movement. Zawahiri does not carry the same mythical aura as bin Laden and thus the organization could lose its luster among young recruits.
That said al-Qaeda and its affiliates will continue to remain active. The U.S. must recognize that bin Laden’s death alone does not signal the end of the fight against global terrorism. It is a major positive development, but there remains much hard work to be done in defeating the organization in the region.
Lisa Curtis is a Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, http://www.heritage.org/ focusing on analyzing America’s economic, security, and political relationships with India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.