What Happens Next?
By now all of us know the facts: on the morning of Sunday, May 1, an elite group of Navy Seals was transported via helicopter to a private neighborhood compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The target was Osama Bin Laden, and the mission was a success. Bin Laden resisted, and was killed. Three male insurgents were killed, including a man believed to be one of Bin Laden’s sons. One woman was killed after reportedly being used as a human shield, and two others were injured. No internal injuries were reported by the Navy Seals.
To the everyday citizen in United States as well as the victims of Bin Laden’s attacks around the world, it seems the perfect conclusion to a long, violent and costly campaign against the terrorist leader: a squad of American soldiers kill the most dangerous terrorist in the world in an efficient raid resulting in zero injuries to friendly forces. Unfortunately, while certainly a milestone in the war on terror we have been waging for 10 years, this is not the end. Not only must we accept that the forces of al Qaeda are still operating throughout the Middle East, we need to understand the consequences of Bin Laden’s death.
One thing those of us who do not associate with radical politics can find relief in is the political solidarity between the two parties that has been a result. The role President Obama played in giving the orders to execute the operation has renewed support and popularity for the Commander in Chief and his administration. Liberals and conservatives have set aside their arguments to convey gratitude to the men and women in the armed forces, and remember the tragedy of 9/11, the reason we began this campaign.
Yet, as we enjoy unification in the U.S., the death of Bin Laden has put even more stress on the already unsteady relationship we have with Pakistan. The fact that Bin Laden was hiding in an affluent neighborhood, in a multi-million dollar compound that must have taken years of building and incredible man power to complete raises a lot of suspicion about the Pakistani government. This, as well the fact that Obama authorized the mission in to the country without alerting Pakistani officials has led many to believe that there is far less trust between our countries than publicly proclaimed; even to the point that Pakistan was knowingly harboring Bin Laden in secret.
Even as the death of al Qaeda’s proclaimed leader is seen as a victory throughout the world, the organization itself still exists, and still poses a threat. Ayman Al Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s second-in-command, is still at large. The death of their leader has resulted in threats of violent retaliation from the organization. American embassies have remained on high alert since the news of his death was released, and Americans travelling abroad have been warned to draw as little attention to themselves as possible. While al Qaeda is in disarray and the threat of a planned, large-scale attack is low, the world must prepare itself for more acts of terrorism.
Osama Bin Laden’s death is certainly a victory, but we must not fall under the illusion that the fight is over. Terrorism is an entity that will always be present, even after the disintegration of a key group like al Qaeda. While it is highly debated if our war on terrorism is the moral and right thing to do, one thing we can be certain of is that it is a commitment with no end on the immediate horizon. The mission is still not accomplished, and even with the death of the most dangerous terrorist in the world, it will be a long time before that statement is true.