The 10-year manhunt for Osama bin Laden ended on Sunday, May 1, in a 40-minute raid barely 1,000 yards away from a Pakistani Military Academy, where a Special Operations team comprised of Navy SEALS assaulted the compound and killed the terrorist leader.
The raid was the result of intelligence and analyst reports dating back to August 2010 and the cumulative efforts of U.S. intelligence agencies since the grim events of 9/11. According to a statement released by President Obama, bin Laden was tracked through a courier who was known to be trusted by him, and upon confirmation of the target, the order was given to raid the compound and kill or capture bin Laden.
Since bin Laden’s death, there has been a flurry of controversy surrounding his location in Abbottabad, home to what can be considered the West Point of the Pakistani military, the Kakul Military Academy and several other military strongholds. Pakistani military officials have been adamantly insisting the government had no knowledge of bin Laden’s hideout but have not been able to explain how Pakistani intelligence did not notice the massive compound or its unusually heavy security measures.
Lina Kreidie, a Middle East expert and faculty member at UC Irvine, pointed out that Pakistan’s lack of involvement could be a positive decision.
“It would be in [the] Pakistani government’s interest not to get involved in this mission of finding and killing bin Laden, as this will outrage the radical Islamist movements in Pakistan against the government who are suffering from lack of legitimacy,” Kreidie said, speculating that Pakistan’s lack of involvement could actually be a tactical decision.
Bin Laden’s death is the subject of much discussion, specifically as to how important the aging leader was to al-Qaeda and the Taliban’s command and structure.
Kreidie explained that bin Laden’s death would enrage some militants while simultaneously demoralizing others. Much of the aftermath would rely heavily on U.S. foreign policy and response to conflicts in Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Syria.
Professor Mark LeVine, who specializes in U.S. foreign policy in the Muslim world stated that bin Laden’s death is more cathartic than it is damaging to the terrorist structures he helped to create.
“We still don’t know how operationally relevant he was … In the absence of such broader change in policies, his death won’t impact the course of terrorism that greatly, and to the extent it weakens al-Qaeda, might give more legitimacy to the Taliban, who portray themselves as fighting against foreign invaders rather than engaging in global jihad,” LeVine said.
While bin Laden’s importance is debatable, there is little doubt that his death will be the cause of an upheaval within al-Qaeda ranks. The results of this will likely not be seen immediately, though, and intelligence documents recovered within the compound may have more immediate uses. Militarily, bin Laden’s death is the result of many years of hard work and sacrifice on the part of U.S. Military forces both at home and abroad.
Corporal Jack Williams of the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Marines, and co-founder of Military and Veterans Fraternity at UCI, felt that the victory was well-earned and deserved.
“The celebration in the streets wasn’t just about jubilation at the end of a life, but more broadly about a win for the right side of what I see as a zero-sum conflict between Islamic extremism and Western liberalism,” Williams said.
Corporal Williams also stated that he wasn’t surprised by bin Laden’s location in Pakistan but didn’t blame the Pakistani government.
“There may be individuals within the apparatus aiding terrorists, but that should not incite us to make rash decisions regarding our policy stance as a whole,” he said.
There are still many political pundits and religious leaders who have criticized the manner in which bin Laden was tracked down and captured, and others who are now engaged in discussions as to what the next move should be. The possibility of retribution attacks also are cause for increased caution, but Corporal Williams remained upbeat and energetic about the effects of Osama bin Laden’s death and the future.
“This killing was a tactical, strategic, national and personal victory,” he said. “Now let’s get the rest of them.”