May 02, 2011

Osama Bin Laden's Death

Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden’s death is an important milestone. The broader struggle against the al Qaeda network and militant Islamism in general, however, has by no means ended. Militant Islamist groups and networks have historically demonstrated their ability to regenerate despite the decapitation of their very senior leaders. The al Qaeda network, moreover, has evolved since 9/11 into a decentralized organization whose various nodes operate independently. In Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has established itself as the most active al Qaeda franchise. In Pakistan, a threatening nexus of militant Islamist groups continues to find sanctuary and target American and allied interests.

Please find selected videos and reading from AEI's Critical Threats Project below.

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Reactions to Osama bin Laden's Death

Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, Bin Laden Is Dead

"Withdrawing forces from Afghanistan and cutting all aid to Pakistan would merely reinforce two of the most prevalent conspiracy theories in South Asia—that the United States will always abandon those who rely on it, and that we were only there to get bin Laden anyway."

Reza Jan, Al Qaeda Speaks: Statement Confirms Osama Bin Laden's Death

“If there is one take away from all of this, it is that bin Laden’s death has not silenced the network (nor, apparently, bin Laden himself), nor has it reduced al Qaeda’s desire to strike out at the U.S. and its interests. The statement is crafted to shore up the morale of the group and its supporters, and signal that there is still a functional, collected, and coherent leadership operating despite the death of bin Laden.”

Frederick Kagan, Struggle Against Violent Islamism More Than Killing a Single Man

“The objective of our long struggle against violent Islamism was not, or should not have been, to kill a single man. It was to end the danger that organizations embodying this hateful and heretical ideology pose to Americans and decent people around the world.”

Frederick Kagan, Bin Laden, No More

“The al Qaeda cancer metastasized long ago throughout Pakistan, on the Arabian peninsula, and into Muslim Africa. Experts who study the organization have long described its decentralized nature and resilience. Previous successful attacks on al Qaeda leaders have demonstrated that resilience repeatedly.”

Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, An Unusually Hard Target

"The very difficulty we encountered in finding and killing Bin Laden should warn us against the danger of seeing in such operations a magical, low-cost, small-footprint silver bullet for the problems we face."

Reza Jan, Killing Bin Laden

“The death of bin Laden should be used as an opportunity to ratchet up the pressure on al Qaeda even further rather than as an excuse to wind-down U.S. efforts against AQAM in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The euphoria of the victorious moment will pass, but the threats from al Qaeda will remain and require constant, vigilant action.”

Reza Jan, Al Qaeda and Affiliates Still Need to be Ruthlessly Dismantled

“The death of bin Laden should also not be taken as an excuse or an opportunity to wind down American involvement in Afghanistan. Doing so would display dangerous ignorance of al Qaeda’s staying power.”

Maseh Zarif, Al Qaeda Network Lives on after Bin Laden

“The successful mission that killed bin Laden…does not necessarily spell defeat for the al Qaeda network. Al Qaeda’s evolution since 9/11 has resulted in the rise of largely independent franchises that pose a serious threat…the broader al Qaeda network’s safe havens, not individual leaders like bin Laden, serve as the most important asset for terrorists who pose a threat to the West.”

Katherine Zimmerman, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Ready to Step In

“The U.S. should be wary of confusing bin Laden’s death with the defeat of the al Qaeda network. A first step in Yemen for the U.S. is a strong counter-terrorism partner who is able, and willing, to take on the fight against AQAP.”

Further Reading on Al Qaeda and the Al Qaeda Network

Charlie Szrom and Chris Harnisch, Al Qaeda's Operating Environments: A New Approach to the War on Terror

“Territory matters to al Qaeda, notwithstanding the arguments of some counterterrorism experts to the contrary. Understanding the importance of territory to the al Qaeda network and the precise nature of its various operating environments could lay the foundation for a detailed strategy, help educate Americans about the war on terror, and inform a reexamination of US policy in the war on terror.”

Katherine Zimmerman, Examining the Potential Relocation of al Qaeda Leadership

“Yemen and Somalia could both offer some sort of sanctuary to the al Qaeda leadership, but the decision to remain along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is an indication that it does not sense an immediate threat to its survival. Transferring or gaining access to an established support network will take time without pre-existing, vetted networks in place.”

Maseh Zarif, Dusseldorf al Qaeda Cell

“The Dusseldorf cell leader’s reported link to al Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan is part of a long-recurring pattern in al Qaeda’s operations against the West… as the cell leader’s travel destination again demonstrates, the threat from al Qaeda originates from foreign sanctuaries, such as those in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”

Frederick Kagan and Katherine Zimmerman, Yemen Strategic Exercise

“Not only is Yemen unlikely to see a smooth transition to a stable new regime, but its new leaders are singularly unlikely to see pursuing al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on America’s behalf as a high priority for some time.”


Thumbnail photo of Osama bin Laden from