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Osama Bin Laden's Death and the Future of Al Qaeda

10:29 AM, May 4, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Fred Kagan writes:

The death of Osama bin Laden is highly unlikely to mark a turning point in the conflict between the United States and its allies on the one hand and militant Islamism epitomized by al Qaeda on the other. President Obama deserves much praise for ordering the operation to get bin Laden, and the brave Americans who carried that operation out so skillfully deserve the thanks of a grateful nation. But al Qaeda itself, to say nothing of the numerous franchises and affiliated movements sharing common goals with it, will not be defeated by the death of a single leader, even its founder and figurehead. Nor is it clear that its operational capabilities even in Pakistan will be seriously degraded with bin Laden's passing--available information suggests that he abandoned day-to-day operational control over the moment long ago, and the organization has survived the deaths of many senior leaders more actively involved in its activities. There is cause for celebration in the death of a deeply evil man with much blood on his hands and more innocent deaths in his mind, but no cause to waver in our determination to press forward in this conflict against a determined foe.

Public speculation about the complicity of the Pakistani government or security services either in harboring bin Laden or in supporting the U.S. operation that killed him is idle. Policy-makers and strategists would do much better to focus on the demonstrable facts about the threat militant Islamists based in Pakistan pose to Pakistan itself, its neighbors, our forces, and our homeland.

Those facts are distressing enough. With bin Laden dead, al Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan remains robust and significant. Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, an Egyptian with ties (both friendly and hostile) with the Muslim Brotherhood, is a more gifted theorist and better writer than bin Laden ever was, although far less rhetorically effective and unlikely to be an inspirational leader.

Whole thing here.

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