Power Struggle Within al-Qaida Possible After bin Laden Killed

Monday, 02 May 2011 12:39 PM

By Judith Miller

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Osama bin Laden’s death is a stunning victory for America and justice. But make no mistake about it: the war on militant Islamic terrorism will continue.

Here are a few other implications of the remarkable intelligence and special forces raid (which included Navy SEALs) that resulted in bin Laden’s death:

In the short run, paradoxically, the threat to Americans and American targets overseas targets will increase as die-hard Islamic militants will seek to carry out retaliatory attacks to avenge the killing of their leader.

Soon after President Obama’s speech, the State Department put all U.S. embassies on alert and issued a travel advisory to Americans living and traveling overseas. But Ben Venzke, of the IntelCenter, which tracks al-Qaida statements and writings, noted that “large-scale plots by organized groups are not likely to occur in the coming days, but rather months to a year or more from now,” given the time required to plan and carry out such attacks.

The death of the al-Qaida leader is likely to place the organization under even greater pressure. Though Venzke says that the organization’s leadership is likely to have planned for such a contingency, this is likely to set off a power struggle within al-Qaida, whose No. 2 and chief strategist, Ayman al Zawahiri, may attempt to use bin Laden’s death to consolidate power within his badly fractured organization.

The fact that Osama bin Laden was hiding in a house in Pakistan less than 50 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad means that the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is likely to face further stress in the coming months as Americans push for greater cooperation and “buy-in” from Pakistan’s intelligence, military, and political forces.

The death of bin Laden makes it easier for President Obama to begin withdrawing some of the initial “surge” forces from Afghanistan, although it is unclear whether bin Laden’s death will affect the calculations of the Taliban inside Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The raid will restore the reputation and standing of the image of America’s military and intelligence throughout the world, and deservedly so. Coming as it does four months before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it highlights America’s reach, its capacity for strategic patience, and its determination to pursue all of its foes for as long as it takes for justice to be done.

Read all of Judith Miller's columns on Pundicity.com

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