A really bad day for bin Laden – and for Pakistan

Entry Excerpt:

The killing of Osama bin Laden is a satisfying triumph for Americans and the U.S. government. It would have been even more satisfying had it occurred in the weeks and months after the September 2001 attacks. But the fact that it took a decade to finally kill bin Laden should be warning to any who doubt the long memories and persistence of the U.S. government’s counterterrorism forces. They didn’t forget and they never stopped working on the problem.

The Joint Special Operations Command, presumably the command responsible for the mission, should get credit for demonstrating its ability to successfully raid targets virtually anywhere in the world. The CIA also gets credit for patiently developing the required intelligence and for reminding everyone of the value of battlefield captures, interrogations, and human intelligence.

Finally, President Barack Obama deserves great credit for taking the risk of ordering this raid. He likely knew that the past record of such high-visibility raids was not good and that much more can go wrong with these operations than go right. He must also have known that another Desert One fiasco could have been disastrous on several levels.

Most notable was Obama’s willingness to shatter America’s relationship with Pakistan in order to take a gamble on getting bin Laden. For this raid is a black day for Pakistan and its relationship with the United States. As the White House background briefing on the raid makes clear, the United States kept the raid completely concealed from the Pakistani government. Combine this with the fact that bin Laden was found in a highly protected compound in a wealthy town near Pakistan’s capital, and a stone’s throw from a Pakistani military academy. Americans will be right to conclude that Pakistan was bin Laden’s long-time friend and not America’s. What little support Pakistan still enjoys in Washington will now likely melt away. Pakistan will have to look to China, its last friend, for the support it will need to survive.

Although the struggle against terrorism will go on, the death of bin Laden will bring a sense of finality for most in the American electorate. Combine that with more evidence of Pakistan’s duplicity, the evident breakdown in relations between the United States and Pakistan, and what will likely be the most bloody year for U.S. soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. The result could be a final collapse of public support for the war in Afghanistan. That probably won’t bother President Obama too much and will bolster his argument to accelerate the U.S. withdrawal from that war later this year.

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