The End of One Chapter, the Start of another Uncertain One
MA, International Affairs
“In NYC, celebrations took place in Ground-Zero until 4:00am where some family members of those who were killed showed up and testified to the bitter-sweet closure this event brought them.”
New York City, USA: On May 1st at around 10:00 pm, The White House kept the United States and surely the world hostage with the unprecedented announcement on late Sunday evening that President Obama will address the world on a matter of high national security importance. The media was on fire with speculation about this ambiguous announcement. As the President briefed congress and former presidents Bush and Clinton prior to his national address, the news leaked that Bin Laden was to be announced dead and a jubilant crowd waited outside the White House minutes before Obama broke the most important news since 9/11, the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Last August, Obama was briefed on a possible lead on Bin Laden hiding within a mansion in the urban city of Abbottabad, Pakistan. The mansion was built in 2005 with extraordinary physical security including 12-18 ft walls with barbed wire. Access has been restricted by two security gates. Officials say they had been paying attention to one of the couriers going in and out that for some reason attracted their attention. Moreover, the residents of the mansion burned their trash as opposed to just putting them out for collection. The mansion which is valued at around one million dollars had no internet or phone connection, and among the people living there, one, matched the size and make-up of Bin Laden.
Last week, Obama determined they have enough intelligence to take action and authorized an operation to capture or kill Bin Laden. On May 1st, Obama launched the CIA operation against the mansion (which lasted about 40 minutes) with a small team of Navy Seals. Helicopters dropped the special operatives in the compound and after a firefight Bin Laden was shot in the head (reportedly along with his wife and one of his sons) and the operatives took custody of his body. And as the Pakistani state channel ‘GEO’ showed, the mansion was left burning. The US insisted that Bin Laden will not be extradited and his body will be administered in accordance with Islamic tradition. When asked by a reporter if an Imam was present at the burial during the White House Press briefing, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security replied that the necessary steps were taken after his death in consultation with the right people. However he insisted that he was buried at sea.
The Pakistani officials are claiming they had prior knowledge of the operation and even assisted the mission. US officials emphatically deny that the Pakistani military had any prior knowledge of the operation and were only informed after its completion to avoid compromise. Obviously the Pakistani military by these statements are trying to preempt criticisms and insinuations about why and how Bin Laden was able to remain there undetected.
The area of the compound which Bin Laden was residing in is affluent and many retired Pakistani military officials retreat to. This will bring about a lot of suspicious questions that Pakistan will have to answer to mainly about his undetected presence. It is being speculated that Bin Laden could not have stayed this long in a rural mansion in Pakistan for what appears to be at least a year without some high profile protection from within the Pakistani military which is known to go easy on—and in some cases support—the Taliban in order to serve as a bulwark against a new pro-Indian Afghan regime.
The US has had a contingency plan in the case of Bin Laden’s death or capture. This plan includes protection of transportation hubs, critical infrastructure and the like. NYC police commissioner Ray Keller sent out alerts to heightened alert and vigilance especially on iconic locations such as Times Square. Philadelphia Police Chief has issued patrols around Mosques and Synagogues as a preventative security measure. Last, the US has issued a general travel alert.
More critical is heightened intelligence gathering. The US are aware and fears that Bin Laden, who surely must have anticipated his death sooner or later, could have had long standing symbolic retaliatory operations in place upon his death or capture. In other words, his death may serve as a trigger for attacks already in place to be carried out by sleeper cells in strategic locations which Bin Laden has had over 10 years to possibly prepare for.
There is also the more unpredictable threat. Although Bin Laden has had waning support, his symbolic presence resonates with sympathizers around the globe. His death could be a shocking revelation that could spark unguided suicide/terrorist attacks carried out by lone wolves or al-Qaeda affiliates.
Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai spared no time in using this event as a PR opportunity. In a prompt speech after the event, he stated that he hopes now the world would believe that Afghanistan is not a place where terrorists reside and should not be hunted down over homes of women and children, taking another swipe at recent NATO attacks that have accidently killed civilians.
In terms of how this will play out in US politics: Two presidents have tried to capture or kill Bin Laden. After being sworn in, Obama ordered the capture or killing of Bin Laden a top priority to his newly appointed CIA chief Leon Pannetta. Three years later, the Commander and Chief delivered on his promise with a flawless CIA operation with no US casualties or injuries. No matter what develops with the remainder of Obama’s term, this event will play a big role in boosting his approval ratings and securing his reelection. This was an extremely risky operation and as Brennan noted “The Gutsiest decision” taken by any modern President, especially since it involved an attack in a sovereign nation without its consent. Very alive in the memory of Americans is Jimmy Carter’s failed operation to rescue the US Embassy hostages in Iran. Therefore this operation will serve as a touchstone of a successful CIA operation as well as a very well needed American victory to boost credibility after many controversial foreign operations.
Bin laden founded al-Qaeda in 1988 during the peak of the successful Mujahidin movement that eventually assisted in driving the USSR out of Afghanistan. Exasperated by US military presence on Arab soil during and after the Gulf War led him to declaring jihad against the US in 1996. Most notably, he was held responsible for the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 and the “9/11” attacks in 2001. Although this is not the end of Al-Qaeda, it is the end of an important chapter, and the start of an uncertain new one.
source: Kuwait Times Newspaper