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How To Write About OBL’s Death (Without Accidentally Scripting a Jerry Bruckheimer Production)
Posted by The Agonist on May 1st, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Sonia Verma offers a decent (if somewhat cursory) outline in today’s Globe and Mail of the actually-existing geopolitical landscape post-OBL (which stands in contrast to Peter Bergen’s recent proxy-Obama2012 victory lap breathlessly commemorating POTUS’ alpha-male action movie moment):

One year after Operation Neptune Spear, al-Qaeda still exists, though in a more fractured form. The group’s ability to carry out large-scale attacks has been compromised. Meanwhile, America’s counterterrorism campaign is gradually shifting from Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan to Yemen and the Horn of Africa. The shaky alliance between the West, led by the United States, and Pakistan, has been plunged into a crisis from which it has not yet recovered. Since Mr. bin Laden’s death, each side has viewed the other with simmering suspicion. But perhaps the most enduring legacy of Mr. bin Laden’s killing is that no one who helped him hide for so long, essentially in plain sight, has been held accountable – and that may have poisoned relations between Pakistan and its Western allies for the foreseeable future.

Standard read-the-whole-damn-thing rules apply.

Related: Navy SEALs for Truth? C’mon. You knew it was coming.

Update: CFR’s Linda Robinson further unpacks lingering OBL blowback, specifically re: US/Pakistan relations.

The most direct impact of bin Laden’s death on Afghanistan was actually the crisis the Abbottabad raid caused in the already troubled U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and the spillover effects from that. It threw the Pakistan military and the political system into crisis, causing Pakistan to react with more anti-Americanism and more hostility and suspicion along the border. Attacks from Pakistan into Afghanistan quadrupled last year, though they are down again now. So the net effect was to make cross-border cooperation more difficult and increase Pakistan’s tendency to pursue its own agenda. That includes things like the Haqqani network’s attacks in September in Kabul on ISAF and the U.S. embassy, and the giant truck bomb in Wardak against the U.S. coalition base in Sayed Abad.


U.S. officials estimate that maybe 100 AQ fighters come and go from Afghanistan across the Pakistan border. Afghanistan is not much of a safe haven for al-Qaeda, though it still has some distance to go to become stable and capable of defending itself against attempts to reestablish an al-Qaeda safe haven. Most Taliban fighters on the ground are not directly connected to the al-Qaeda organization, and it is possible that at some point the Taliban senior leadership will find it in its interest to repudiate its formal ties to al-Qaeda. It is Pakistan that is the cause for greatest concern because al-Qaeda there is mixed up with a stew of various insurgent groups that do actively combine forces and cooperate on an operational level.

Nothing really all that new here. Still, the ugly (if familiar) truth certainly bears repeating, especially in light of the empty football spike sloganeering (“…and GM is alive!”) that dominates the campaign discourse.

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