Editorial: Weighing impact of Bin Laden’s death

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011


OSAMA bin Laden is gone, killed by a special military team sent by the United States to a compound in Abbottabad in northwest Pakistan where the Al Qaeda leader was holed in.

Reports say he died in a firefight, which also reportedly killed one of Bin Laden’s sons and two of his aides, including a woman used as shield by the terorists. That detail, though, only became a footnote to a 45 minutes raid that culminated a process jumpstarted years ago.

But it’s not that Al Qaeda or terrorism will vanish with Bin Laden’s demise. Analysts have noted that the man no longer exercised day to day control of Al Qaeda’s operation a number of years before the recent US military operation.

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His killing was therefore mainly symbolic. And cathartic, especially for Americans who suffered the anguish and endured the shame of being the object of Al Qaeda’s most daring attack thus far: the destruction of the World Trade Center’s twin towers almost ten years ago.

Former US president George W. Bush summed that up well: “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.

But being mainly symbolic does not mean Bin Laden’s death won’t have an effect on the conduct of worldwide terrorism. The fall of charismatic, or should we say notorious, leaders always weakens the movement identified with them.

On this, one does not need to go far. Al Qaeda-linked Philippine terrorist group Abu Sayyaf suffered badly from the deaths of its more notorious leaders, starting from Abu Sabaya in 2002 to Khadaffy Janjalani in 2006, and has not recovered since.

For Al Qaeda, an unnamed senior US official was quoted by BBC as naming Bin Laden’s probable succesor as Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has been described by captured operatives of the organization as “far less charismatic and not well respected.”

Which means Al Qaeda may be “on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse.”

Still, theories are theories and their correctness can only be tested in practice. It would be best, then, for places like the Philippines where Al Qaeda-linked elements are operating, to heed warning’s of possible revenge terrorist attacks and raise security alert levels.

This as the actual impact of the US military raid in Pakistan on international terrorism is still being weighed and noted.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 03, 2011.

Opinion

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