President Barack Obama made a live statement shortly after 11:30 p.m. Sunday from the East Room of the White House:
Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who's responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
The President's pronouncement of the death of the terrorist leader by the first world power prompts the thought: An end worse than this is not even imaginable for any human being. Bin Laden, who privatized and internationalized terrorism, was killed not in a forest or in the Afghan-Pakistani mountains of Tora Bora or in Swat valley while fighting among friends and followers. He has not had the honor to sit in court for trial as in the case of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain. He could not even die as Pol Pot, the bloodthirsty Cambodian despot.
The man considered responsible for the deaths of so many innocent people worldwide (most of them, in fact, Muslims) had not been betrayed by collaborators. He did not die leading a group of valiant resistance fighters, did not die braving brutal the conditions of a mountain hideout, in a terrorist cell or in a maximum security prison. He was not living in a cave when he died, but, as it was announced, in a mansion just 35 or 40 miles from the Pakistani capital living in comfort. He died enjoying the comforts of civilization, while broadcasting his messages based on hatred that, in the end, can only be countered with the light of reason and not with more hate.
The self-proclaimed Sheikh, who claimed responsibility for 9/11 and many other terrorist acts, has been the instigator of the assassination of Ahmad Shah Masoud, the legendary Afghan anti- Taliban leader was not, as he styled himself, a Muslim ascetic, a billionaire's son who gave up a life of privilege for the cause. He was, in reality -- as should now be clear from the facts -- a pawn of security structures, living in luxury by Pakistani standards under their protection. With his youngest wife and some other members of his family, and dozens of armed guards, in a million dollar house six times bigger than all the other houses in the area, he was protected by walls 12 feet high, with no telephone connections and no cell phone signals emitting from the house, at all. The story puts an end to the propaganda of al Qaida and its false myth of the ascetic dedicated to the cause.
The fact that bin Laden was living in Pakistan has been suspected and known by many, but few imagined that he could live so close to the center of the military power of Pakistan. In fact, he was found close to the town of Abbottabad, about 60 kilometers from Islamabad. Interestingly, Abbottabad is also where the Pakistani Army's premier training institution operates.
The acknowledged facts of the case have significant implications:
1.The death of bin Laden is a serious blow to al Qaida
A blow -- but not the end of al Qaida, because its ideology endures. It is a well-known fact that al Qaida is connected to the deepest soul of Arab-Islamic societies still ruled by absolutist monarchies and lifelong presidencies. In these countries, as demonstrated by the uprisings of the Arab Spring, there is still an unwillingness by the ruling elite to recognize the democratic legitimacy and to implement true democratic reforms. Only full democracy in Pakistan and at least the start of democratic initiatives in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, together with serious economic development plans, could put an end to al Qaida.
The terrorist organization was born and raised in societies where civil rights are curtailed or non-existent. To put a definitive end to al Qaida, these societies must enact democratic laws and extend human rights. In fact, we saw that the protests of the Democratic Arab street has
weakened al Qaida. Combatting Islamophobia worldwide is another necessary step.
Against its own best civil traditions of tolerance, Pakistan is becoming a breeding ground for radicalism. Pakistan is giving birth, support and protection to extremists. At least certain cadres within the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) are aware and complicit. Pakistan, ideologically and financially supported by Saudi Arabia (supporter of Islamist fundamentalism worldwide), supports the Taliban and attracts jihadists from the international basin to use them as its own geopolitical instrument. Pakistan thinks to keep pressure on the Indian giant by using jihadis as bargaining chips and promoting its policy in Afghanistan of returning to power their Taliban allies. Indeed, Pakistan is pressuring Afghanistan's president against building a strategic partnership with the U.S., urging him instead to look to Pakistan -- and its Chinese ally -- for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy.
3.The elimination of bin Laden is most likely the result of negotiations between the CIA and ISI
In a country where even dead mosquitoes, are tracked by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), it is difficult not to think that the highest echelons of Pakistani power were aware of -- even in charge of -- protecting the terrorist. Various circles in Pakistan that manage and support terrorist groups, under pressure from the Obama administration, may have decided to deliver to the U.S. the information necessary for the elimination of bin Laden as, long before, they had delivered to Iran another terrorist, Abdolmalek Rigi. Successful elimination or capture of terrorists via coordination between Intelligence agencies is important and a necessary step. However, it cannot alone definitively resolve the problem. International law -- accepted and signed by legitimate governments in the region -- must ensure the general security. In any case, the death of the terrorist demonstrates that, when power decides, even the most dangerous terrorists can be captured and removed.
The announced elimination of bin Laden is directly linked to the new political direction in Washington: Undoubtedly, a potential second term for Barack Obama is made more likely by this fact. President Obama scored a success; but there is still the worldwide al Qaida and the regional Taliban body that is affiliated or sympathetic to al Qaida. Yet we cannot forget that Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani PM assassinated in 2007 by al Qaeda, also had publicly announced the death of bin Laden. Bhutto's announcement was probably politically motivated.
4.The Obama administration has decided to disengage from Afghanistan
This is an expensive war in a strategic area that has become less important with the prolonged economic crisis and with the Arab Spring. It is felt that in Afghanistan a clear, definitive victory is not possible. The unique solution would be what has been defined by Bob Woodward as some sort of "diplomatic settlement." By leaving Afghanistan, President Obama seeks to free himself from the Bush Administration's Legacy. But Obama's administration wants to withdraw without raising the white flag; so, after indirectly paying Taliban commanders to lay down their arms he has the need for some spectacular result in order to convince public opinion to support withdrawal. Thus, the elimination of bin Laden is preparing the ground for the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
However, exiting Afghanistan without a security agreement with regional anti-Taliban powers or, alternatively, an agreement with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and China which, as a competitor with India, garners Pakistan's sympathy (the main supporters of the Taliban) to put an end to the Taliban as a political force, would mean leaving everything to the Taliban. The risk of a Taliban return to power is also demonstrated by the negotiations among the Taliban's most radical cadresa (The Quetta Shura and The Haqqani network) and the Karzai government.
In one of the most recent studies on the outlook for Afghan security, the authoritative International Council on Security wrote:
The clearest lesson of the 9/11 attacks was that global security cannot be disentangled from security in the world's ungoverned spaces, from Afghanistan to Somalia. The lack of international interest in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 allowed the Taliban to rise, and created space for Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. International actors must learn this lesson as its bottom line -- Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups cannot be allowed a safe haven in Afghanistan, regardless of its political terrain. Similarly the Taliban and its affiliates must be prevented from fomenting chaos in other neighboring states, particularly in Central Asia. If either of these scenarios comes to pass, the international community will have failed in Afghanistan -- an outcome which would raise serious questions about the very future of NATO and international order.