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Bin Laden, al Qaeda and the War

JINSA Report #: 

May 4, 2011

Yes, we're glad he's gone. But the war of the 21st Century remains a war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them. The demise of no single man solves the problem of terrorism or of intolerant and radical Islamic fundamentalism.

Most of the credit goes to the continuity of American government and the faithful professionals who work across changes in administrations and Congresses. The CIA and U.S. Special Operations forces stayed with the problem, dug deep and deeper, marshaled resources and succeeded. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and company appear to have given up the crucial information at Guantanamo during the Bush administration and, importantly, the Obama administration did not consider it inadmissible evidence. To whatever extent Bin Laden was important to the growth of al Qaeda, the organization had long ago moved beyond a single man.

His death will have repercussions, and being American, we are most concerned with the impact on our "allies."

The relationship with Pakistan was already becoming problematic as "collateral damage" from drone strikes - read "civilians killed by Americans in drone strikes" - put increasing pressure on the government to end cooperation with American military efforts even as those efforts were paying dividends in eliminating Taliban and al Qaeda leadership in the mountains. If it is determined that elements of the Pakistani government knew Bin Laden was in Abbotabad and/or if they didn't permit the entry of U.S. forces until they negotiated a stiff price, our efforts in that country are on even thinner ice than we thought.

The Hamas-Fatah "reconciliation" agreement already made Fatah less of a "partner" in whatever potential conversations the United States and Israel were prepared to have with the Palestinians, but their three-part reaction to Bin Laden is instructive.

Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh, the Gaza dictator, said, "We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood... We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs."

We expected that.

On the other hand, Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib said, "Getting rid of Bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods - the violent methods - that were created and encouraged by Bin Laden and others in the world."

Not bad.

But Palestinian Media Watch reports that the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade - the armed wing of Fatah - put out its own statement, saying:

"The Islamic nation awoke to a catastrophe...The military wings of the Jihad fighters in Palestine and outside of it, who have in the past lost many of their commanders and their men, will not stop. This has only strengthened their determination, their resolve and their loyalty to their Shahids, who have turned their words into a reality testifying to their honesty, and which in fact bolsters the drive and the strength of their brothers on the path to victory or Shahdada (Death for Allah)...We say to the American and Israeli occupier: the [Islamic] nation which produced leaders who changed the course of history through their Jihad and their endurance, is a nation that is capable of supplying an abundance of new blood into the arteries of the resistance and is capable of restoring the glory of Islam and the flag of Allah's oneness, Allah willing."

Will the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade side in the future with Hamas, with whom it appears to share the Islamist view of martyrdom, or remain with Fatah, nominally secular? Since the United States arms and trains the security forces of Fatah, what would that mean to us?

And so it will go - everyone will point to someone who was pleased or displeased, joyous or devastated, more threatening or more cowed, more moderate or less moderate to make the point they want to make about the impact of Bin Laden's death.

We suggest that although we are pleased and relieved - and proud of the Americans who made it happen - the Middle East will remain mired in turmoil and subject at least as much to the dictates of Islamic radicals - including Palestinians - as they were before Sunday. We have a long way to go before believing the region will be hospitable to the liberty, tolerance, clean government and stability that would serve its own people.

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